Church members remember Gastonia pastor killed in train collision

Members of New Canaan Baptist Church in Gastonia gathered Tuesday night to pray and remember the life of their pastor killed in a tragic train collision Monday.

“He preached the word and he lived it,” said minister Monica Gardner about pastor Thomas Collins Junior.

For the past six years, Collins led worship at New Canaan Baptist Church. The father of four and grandfather of nine was just at church Sunday. Church-goers had no way of knowing it would be his last time in the pew.

“He was truly a man of God. He was truly a shepherd to this flock and he will be so missed,” Deacon Kimberlle June said.

Church members told Channel 9 Collins was finishing his shift as a garbage truck driver and returning the truck to the yard to head home to his family, when he was involved in the devastating accident with a train. Collins died on the scene.

There is not a railroad crossing signal or stop-arm where the accident happened off Highway 7 in Ranlo.

Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster investigated and learned the state’s Department of Transportation owns the right-of-way. A DOT spokesman said there are no signals because it’s a private rail crossing with limited traffic.

But after the deadly collision, DOT plans to meet with the rail company and Waste Management to discuss improving safety.

Until changes come, church member say, they’ll lean on faith to get them through losing the man who took in his church family as his own.

“The healing is going to come with knowing that he’s with the Lord right now,” June said.

Collins’ funeral arrangements have not been set yet.

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