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Former town councilwoman among those killed in Virginia church van crash

Posted at 1:13 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 17:20:42-04

BLACKSTONE, Va. -- Mourners came to Shiloh Baptist Church to express their grief following a fatal crash that claimed four lives.

"Oh my God. I was just stunned. I couldn't believe it. I was in total shock," Harriett Greenhill, a Blackstone native who knew the victims, said.

Four members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Blackstone were killed when their van was rear-ended on their way to Mount Zion Church in Dinwiddie County.

The crash victims were identified by police as James Farley, 87; Wartena Somerville, 36; Delois Williams, 72; and Constance Wynn, 85.

"Once the names started hitting me, they hit me hard," Blackstone Mayor Billy Coleburn said.

Coleburn said he knew Constance Wynn well.

"For years she served on town council. From 1987 to 2010," Coleburn said. "Four years I was mayor with her on council."

He said Wynn was one of the first black women to be elected in Blackstone -- and had a huge impact on the town.

"She just is a wonderful lady. A strong voice for the people. Someone that got things done, but did so in a positive manner," Coleburn said. "I know Miss Wynn in particular would be looking down smiling and saying 'don't cry for me, I'm with the Lord.'"

Coleburn said he took comfort knowing that all the victims on the bus are now with their Heavenly Father.

"The people on that bus that perished are some of the strongest people of faith and perseverance and grace," he said. "I mean let's face it -- on a Tuesday night in the summer they were going to worship God. They were helping another church worship God. That's living it -- not just saying it."

Coleburn and Greenhill said the community is now relying on prayer and each other to get through.

"In the blink of an eye so much can change," Greenhill said. "It's difficult, but we're going to stick together and we're going to get through this with God's help,"

The investigation into the fatal crash remains ongoing.

"A Ford E-350 multi-passenger van was traveling west on Route 460 when it slowed to make a right turn into a church parking lot," a Virginia State Police spokesperson said. "A Ford F-450 truck pulling a trailer loaded with metal failed to stop in time and rear-ended the van. The impact of the crash caused the van to overturn several times before it finally came to rest on its side off the right side of Route 460. Meanwhile, the truck ran off the left side of Route 460 and struck the guardrail."

The driver of the truck, identified as Robert Lee Allen, 47, of Norfolk, suffered minors injuries. Charges against him are pending.

A vigil for the crash victims will be held at Shiloh Baptist Church Thursday at 6 p.m.