Friends remember Gastonia pastor killed in crash

Published: Jul. 19, 2016 at 9:21 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2016 at 9:38 PM EDT
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GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Friends still cannot believe they won't get to hear any more moving sermons from Pastor Thomas Collins. Collins was killed Monday when a train collided with the Waste Management truck he was driving.

Collins was the pastor at New Canaan Baptist Church in Gastonia. When Kimberlle June got the call with the news, she broke down.

"It was total shock, disbelief," June said.

Collins had been working with Waste Management for 20 years. That was what helped him provide for his family. Being a pastor was his passion.

Recently, he had told friends he was planning on quitting his job with Waste Management within the next few years, to put all of his focus on being a pastor.

"It takes a special person to be a pastor. You have to have a heart for the people, and he definitely loved his church family," said Monica Gardner, another friend.

At this point in the investigation, Ranlo Police do not know what led to the crash.

RELATED: Pastor dead after waste management truck, train collide

Several neighbors told WBTV they both heard and felt an explosion. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, many wondered why there was no railroad arm to stop traffic.

A North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesperson said the state is not required to put an arm at private railroad crossings, and it's up to the business or individual who owns the piece of property to pay for one. The crossing where the crash happened is private, belonging to Waste Management.

Waste Management did not want to comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Friends of Collins said they will remember him as more than a victim in the crash. He was a devoted family man who leaves behind his wife, four children and six grandchildren.

"He's a good father, a nurturing father, a loving father, a loving husband, a true man of god, a provider for his family," June said.

Whether it was in church or in the community, Collins provided inspiration to everyone he met.

"He pushes you to be the best you can be," Gardner said.

Without that inspiration, both Gardner and June said Sunday services will never be the same.

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