Loved ones hold vigil for pastor killed in Westbank crash

Loved ones hold vigil for pastor killed in Westbank crash
Pastor Claude Williams was one of the people killed Sunday night on the Westbank Expressway. (Source: Celebration Church)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - There were tears, laughter and plenty of prayer Monday (June 17) but mostly, in a room packed with mourners, there was a celebration of life for a man who touched many with his passion for God.

Celebration Church member Yolanda Harrell spoke about Claude Williams, the 49-year-old pastor who was suddenly taken from his family and community when he was fatally hit by a car on Highway 90 late Sunday night.

“Pastor Claude was just a very loving Pastor, he loved the Lord, he loved his family, he loved his church. You can call him at any time and he was there,” Yolanda Harrell said.

Ty and Yolanda Harrell had Pastor Williams over for dinner Sunday night.

“Because we didn’t want him to be alone for Father’s Day,” Yolanda explained.

They said he was in good spirits, still reeling from an impressive turnout at church service that day, and eager for a game of spades.

“He was really excited because his wife wasn’t there to say, ‘This game is taking too long, let’s go home,’” Yolanda said.

But Williams never made it home.

Instead, he and his longtime friend, 49-year-old William Leinart and another driver, 66-year-old Ivan Chopin of Marrero, stopped to help a group of women motorists who had broken down, according to Louisiana State Police spokesman Monroe Dillon.

“We believe they might have been trying to change a tire," Dillon said. “Shortly after that, a vehicle heading east bound on US 90 B, which turned out to be an impaired driver, struck that vehicle head on, causing all three pedestrians to go over the side.”

Dillon said that impaired driver was identified 40-year-old Todd Williams, who is now facing three counts of vehicular homicide and three more counts of vehicular negligent injuring.

Now, those who knew Pastor Williams said they’re praying for all those effected, even Todd Williams.

“He emphasized we have to trust God and put our trust and put our whole trust and our whole being in Christ,” Ty Harrell said.

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