BCH teen killed by train
October 16 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

BCH teen killed by train | Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003

Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003

BCH teen killed by train

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

A 16-year-old living at a Baptist Children's Homes (BCH) of North Carolina facility was killed Oct. 14 when he was hit by a train.

Joshua James Willis was riding his bike to BCH's Mills Home in Thomasville when an Amtrak passenger train struck him at about 7:40 p.m. Willis had left a YMCA where he volunteered a short while earlier.

Witnesses reportedly told police that Willis went around the railroad crossing arms at the Norfolk-Southern Railway tracks. Norfolk-Southern officials told the Thomasville Times that the train was going about 70 mph.

Brenda B. Gray, BCH's executive vice president for development and communications, said police have indicated that Willis probably tried to beat the train as he crossed the tracks.

"I'm sure he saw the lights and thought he could make it," Gray said. "He just misjudged."

Gray said Willis, who was called "Josh" by his friends, had been with BCH for about two and a half years. He had "turned his life around" and was baptized Sept. 28, she said.

When BCH officials went to Willis' room after the accident, they found his Bible open on a table next to his bed where he had left it after his morning devotions.

"He was a very special young man," Gray said.

Willis loved to play basketball and had learned how to play the guitar.

"He was a very outgoing young man," Gray said. "He loved life."

Willis had a great sense of humor and liked to volunteer, Gray said. "He liked being busy," she said.

Gray said Willis had a "great day at school" the day he died. His grades had been improving and his teacher allowed him to bring his guitar and play that day as a reward.

At the YMCA, Willis did whatever task he was told to do, Gray said.

"He was a young man who liked to help," she said.

BCH officials planned to hold a memorial service the evening of Oct. 19. The funeral was scheduled for Oct. 17 in Danville, Va.

Willis was one of about 80 children at Mills Home. The others and the staff members are grieving his loss, Gray said. BCH brought in counselors to help them.

"They're hurting, which is to be expected," she said. "We have a very close family here. We've all offered comfort and support to each other."

Gray said the BCH family asks for the continued prayers of N.C. Baptists.

"We have felt the power of prayer and the power that comes from a Christian community," she said. "Our hearts go out to his family as they grieve."

Willis' death is the first for a BCH child in recent memory, Gray said. He is the third N.C. Baptist to die in a train accident in recent months.

Ned Christy, pastor of New Home Baptist Church in Peachland, and his wife, Priscilla, were killed Aug. 22 when their car was hit by a train in Marshville.

10/16/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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