A memorial bench set up for an 18-month-old boy killed in a crash in Elkin, North Carolina, was reportedly removed from a local park on Dec. 7 and put in storage.
The bench, which was a gift from the local high school's graduating class, was placed in Elkin Park to memorialize 18-month-old Mason Roten, WXII 12 reports. The boy died after his family’s truck swerved to avoid another vehicle moving into their lane and overturned. Other family members sustained serious injuries in the Aug. 30 accident, and the driver of the car who swerved into their lane never turned themselves in, according to Fox 5.
“He was a joyful little boy,” his mother, Heather Roten, told Fox 5.
The bench was removed after town officials said that it didn’t go through the required approval process for memorials placed at the park. The boy’s family, however, believes it was removed because of a Bible verse that was inscribed on it.
“It almost felt like that warm wonderful place at the bench had been taken away as quickly as it was put there,” a family member told WXII 12.
“It seems like the most appropriate place to memorialize a child [is] where there are other children playing and laughing, where Mason and his brother played and liked spending time together," the family member added.
Town manager Jon Holcomb subsequently released a statement clarifying the reasons behind the bench’s removal.
“The bench was first noticed on Monday morning and was removed due to not being approved by our Recreation and Parks Director,” the statement read.
“The bench does have religious symbols and scripture in its designs which no other bench in our park currently has," Holcomb added.