GASTON COUNTY, NC (WJZY) - The pastor of a church in Gastonia has passed away after a train collided with the garbage truck he was driving, according to Ranlo Police in Gaston County.
The accident happened around 1:15 p.m. near Lowell on Monday.
Deputies confirmed Pastor Thomas Collins Jr., died. He was the pastor at New Canaan Missionary Baptist Church, for almost 6 years.
Deacon Kimberlle June with New Canaan said, "I saw a true man of God that lead and guided and directed us by the aid of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, and he pushed us to be all that we could be and do all that we could do."
There is no stoparm at the crossing where the accident happened. On Tuesday, NC DOT told Fox 46 Charlotte they plan to meet with the property owner, Waste Management, to discuss safety outreach and possible safety upgrades to the crossing.
Our FOX 46 Charlotte crew on scene learned the truck was a Waste Management truck. Officials say they were concerned about a possible explosion.
Official: train and Waste Mngmt. truck collide, truck smoking, officials moved me back over explosion concerns pic.twitter.com/ezefKRvQbd— Robin Kanady (@RobinFox46) July 18, 2016
Gaston County Police, Sheriff's Offic, Ranlo Police all on scene pic.twitter.com/iRAW7ch9ZX— Robin Kanady (@RobinFox46) July 18, 2016
Pic from scene pic.twitter.com/xbl6oi0eIp— Robin Kanady (@RobinFox46) July 18, 2016
Officials tell FOX 46 Charlotte that the track where the accident happened was on private property for Waste Management where there were no crossing arms.
Official: Track where accident happened on private property for Waste Mngmt. There are no crossing arms on private prop.— Robin Kanady (@RobinFox46) July 18, 2016
A neighbor says the sound of the train crashing into the garbage truck "shook the whole house."
Neighbor says sound of train crashing into garbage truck shook her whole house— Robin Kanady (@RobinFox46) July 18, 2016
Fox 46 Charlotte reached out to Piedmont & Northern Railway, the company that owns the train involved in the crash. A spokesperson says they are not commenting until the accident investigation is complete.
Statement from Waste Management:
Early yesterday afternoon Waste Management experienced a tragic accident in the 2700 block of Lowell Road in Gaston County. Thomas Collins, Jr., husband, father, grandfather and pastor, died from injuries sustained in an accident when his vehicle collided with a train.
We are profoundly sad for the family of Mr. Collins. This is a heartbreaking incident and our deepest sympathies go out to everyone affected.
We are working with local authorities and would also like to extend our deepest gratitude to the first responders who attended and assisted at the scene.
We appreciate your patience as we continue to investigate this incident.