Pastor: Shiloh Baptist Church van crash victims were ‘blessing to the community’

Posted at 4:49 PM, May 30, 2019

BLACKSTONE, Va. -- Pastor Benjamin Brown Jr., alongside his wife Virtley, is remembering the four members of Shiloh Baptist Church killed on their way to a revival Tuesday night.

Eleven members of the congregation were onboard the church van when it was hit from behind by a large pick-up carrying metal on a trailer near 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.

"All of them were great people and we’re going to miss them dearly," Brown said. "They were such a blessing to the church and even to the Blackstone community."

Brown remembered Constance Wynn as a "great mother."

"She is a pillar in Blackstone," Brown said. "She mentored so many young girls."

The pastor said Delois Williams was a "sweet" hard-working woman who "loved the Lord,"

"More of a quiet person, but she was a great woman also," he said. "Loved her family, loved her husband."

James Farley was remembered as a "jokester" who was always at the church.

"He’s constantly going everywhere," Brown recalled. "He was like a ball of fire, too. He loved the Lord."

Brown remembered teacher Wartena Somerville as a quiet, "praying woman."

Wartena Somerville, 36; Delois Williams, 72; Constance Wynn, 85; .James Farley, 87

Wartena Somerville, 36; Delois Williams, 72; Constance Wynn, 85; .James Farley, 87

Brown was at his house when he got the call and rushed to the "tragic" scene.

Since the crash, Brown said the outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming.

"Thank God for them," Brown said "It’s what we do and what you’re seeing is love."

And Brown said thanks to that love, he’s certain the church will get through this stronger than before.

"We’re going to hurt like everybody else hurt. Things like this are going to happen...," Brown explained. "Just because we have a relationship with God doesn’t mean they’re not going to happen, you know. But we just have to continue to trust."

A vigil will be held at Nottoway Middle School Thursday at 6 p.m.

Four other victims injured in the crash remain hospitalized.

"Nobody’s lost any faith in God. We understand sometimes things happen in life," Brown said. "We can’t explain it, don’t know why, but it doesn’t deter our faith and how we believe in God."

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 47-year-old Robert Lee Allen, of Norfolk, suffered minors injuries. Charges against him are pending.

"I’m glad he’s alright," Brown said. "I wish it would have never happened. Some people may be angry at him, but no, we don’t have any ill feelings towards him."

Members of the church say that the funerals for the four members that died will be held next month.

The church also hopes to carry on their legacy by having a plaque put up in their honor.



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