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Megachurch Campus Pastor Killed Along with Two Others by Suspected Drunk Driver

06-19-2019
This photo of the Williams family was included in an email sent to all members of Louisiana's Celebration Church. (Image credit: Celebration Church)
This photo of the Williams family was included in an email sent to all members of Louisiana's Celebration Church. (Image credit: Celebration Church)

Claude Williams, 49, the pastor of the Celebration Church's Westbank campus located in Terrytown, LA, was killed, along with two other men, by a drunk driver Sunday night.

The New Orleans Advocate reports Williams and his longtime friend William Leinart, 49, had stopped on the Westbank Expressway around 10:30 pm Sunday to help a motorist change a flat tire. They were assisting Ivan Chopin, 66, when the three were struck by a vehicle driven by Todd Williams, 40. 

All of the men were thrown from the elevated highway, according to the Louisiana State Police, and were pronounced dead at the scene. 

The driver of the vehicle is suspected of being intoxicated at the time of the crash. A toxicology sample was obtained for analysis, according to law enforcement officials.  He was booked on several charges, including three counts of vehicular homicide.  

The 10,000-member Celebration Church family was informed of Pastor Williams' death in an email Monday from Lead Pastor Dennis Watson. 

"As many in our Church family know all too well, life is filled with unexplainable tragedies," Watson wrote. "Last night such a tragedy occurred when your Celebration Westbank Campus Pastor, Claude Williams, was taken from this life in a traffic accident."

Watson then asked the church to pray for them constantly.

"Pastor Claude's wife, Twila, and their boys (Emmett, Elijah, and Emory) were in Knoxville, Tennessee visiting her mother," he continued. "They and Pastor Claude's mother have been told about what has happened. Let's pray for them constantly, asking the Lord, the 'God of all comfort' (2 Corinthians 1:3) to help them process through their pain and sorrow in the coming weeks, month and years. We will stand with them and assist them in every week in the coming days."

Watson also mentioned that Williams was a "great example" to everyone. 

"Our entire Celebration Family will be praying for you, our Celebration Westbank Members," Watson noted. "Pastor Claude was known by our Celebration family to be a faithful, faith-filled, godly and loving leader and a great example and encourager to many. However, to you, he's been your Pastor, your friend, your confidant, your caregiver and many other things. So our hearts are especially broken for you, as well as, for his immediate family."

"I spent time this past week with him, and in that time we talked about his love for his family, his love for you his Celebration Westbank family, and his love for people who live on the Westbank," he added. "His transition to heaven is a great experience for him, but it is a heartbreaking loss for all of us who knew and loved him and were blessed to call him our friend."

The lead pastor also told church members to remember God's promise of seeing Pastor Claude again. 

"As I said earlier, life is filled with unexplainable tragedies - and this is certainly one of them," he continued. "We take comfort in the fact that 'the Lord is our refuge and our strength and a very present help in time of trouble' (Psalm 46:1), in the fact that this life is so short compared to what we will experience in Heaven, and that we will see Pastor Claude again in Heaven."

No funeral arrangements or memorial service for Pastor Williams had been announced at the time of publication. 

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