Pastor, 2 others killed in crash on elevated expressway in Jefferson Parish

Louisiana

(WWL-TV)- Three people are dead after they were thrown from the elevated Westbank Expressway following a pair of crashes in Jefferson Parish overnight.

Louisiana State Police say the crashes happened around 10:30 p.m. Sunday on the Westbank Expressway near MacArthur Avenue.

Troopers say 49-year-old Claude Williams was driving an SUV southbound on the expressway when his vehicle became disabled on the roadway. Two other individuals, identified as 49-year-old William Leinart and 66-year-old Ivan Chopin, tried to help with the disabled SUV when a car crashed into it and the pedestrians.

Two other vehicles were struck in the crash and Claude Williams, William Leinart and Ivan Chopin were pushed over the side of the expressway. The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office pronounced them dead at the scene.

“They were probably killed when they were hit,” said Ken Lodriguss, a witness who saw both crashes. “The way they were hit, they flew off like a little rag doll. It was a horrible thing to see.”

According to Celebration Church’s website, Claude Williams was a pastor at the church’s West Bank campus. In an email to the church’s West Bank congregation, lead Pastor Dennis Watson said that he leaves behind a wife and three children.

“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 wrote.

Watson added that Claude Williams was a “faithful, faith-filled, godly and loving leader and a great example and encourager to many.” 

Celebration Church has 11 local congregations across Southeast Louisiana.

Investigators say the driver of the second car, 40-year-old Todd Williams, was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered minor injuries. Police believe he was impaired at the time of the crash and he was booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center on three counts of vehicular homicide, vehicular negligent injuring, careless operation, no seat belt and switched license plate.

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