Chapman's daughter killed in tragic accident at home

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Maria Sue Chapman, the 5-year-old daughter of Christian entertainer Steven Curtis Chapman, was killed May 21 in a tragic accident on the family's driveway.

According to police, one of her teenage brothers accidentally hit Maria while backing out of the driveway in a SUV. Laura McPherson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, told Associated Press that the teen apparently did not see his sister and will not face charges.

"It looks like a tragic accident," she told AP.

The child, the youngest of the six Chapman children, was taken to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital where she died of her injuries. Apparently other members of the family were outside the home, located south of Nashville, and witnessed the incident.

Maria was the youngest of three girls the Chapman's adopted from China at the insistence of their oldest daughter. As a result of those adoptions, Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, founded Shaohannah's Hope, a foundation and ministry to financially assist thousands of couples in adoption. The ministry is named after their first adopted daughter.

"I don't know of anybody who loves his children more than he does and is so committed to the adoption concept, and to lose one, no matter what the circumstances, is heartbreaking beyond all comprehension," John Styll, president of the Nashville-based Gospel Music Association, told the Tennessean.

The Tennessean said the accident was witnessed by two other children, and the entire family of six, including oldest daughter Emily and mother Mary Beth, who was home at the time.

"Your prayers are needed for all in the Chapman family. This is a family who has so generously loved and given to so many," Jim Houser, manager of the blog chapmanchannel.com, wrote. "Just hours before, this close-knit family was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman's completion of high school. Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out 5 candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago."

The blog, with a page now devoted to Maria's memory, includes a video of the girl and her father washing dishes and singing a song in the family's kitchen two months before her death.

"The Chapman family is so grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and support at this difficult time," a brief statement posted at stevencurtischapman.com said before linking to the blog.

"Chapman talks about his kids all the time. That's his life. His kids are more important to him than music, that's for sure."

Chapman has won five Grammy awards and 51 Dove awards from the Gospel Music Association. In a February 2003 interview with Baptist Press, Chapman said it was the adoption of Shaohannah that brought a life-changing "aha" moment.

"Until we adopted Shaohannah, I didn't fully understand the depth of what Jesus has done for us," Chapman told Baptist Press. "(Without Christ) I was hopeless, without a future, without a name ... then Jesus came into my life, gave me hope and a future. He gave me a new name."

Chapman called adoption the "visible gospel," a term he borrows from Christian author John Piper.

"Adoption is the perfect picture of what God has done for each of us in making us His children through Christ," Chapman said.

"God's done amazing things in our family. Without a doubt, adoption has been the most profound experience in God."

The Chapman Web site also indicated that another artist would be filling in for a scheduled May 24 performance by Chapman.

The family is requesting that, in lieu of flowers, donations be directed Shaohannah's Hope. For more information, visit www.shaohannahshope.org.

Wire services contributed to this report.