Three pastors from the Grace Christian Center in Killeen were killed Thursday night in a rollover crash in Pflugerville.
Pastors Steve Timmerman and Terry and Janice Whitley were driving from the airport after doing missionary work in Bulgaria for 11 days when their passenger van rolled into the median, according to Renee Leach, a church employee.
Pflugerville police said a tire blew out on Texas 130 near Texas 45, causing the van to make a “violent roll into the median” about 7 p.m.
Terry Whitley, 65, was ejected from the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene along with his wife, Janice, 63, officials said. Timmerman, 56, who was driving, was taken to a hospital where he later died, they said. None appeared to have been wearing seat belts, officials said.
Leach said the pastors affected many lives, not only in Killeen, but all over the world. She said each took the time to learn the names of the church’s more than 2,000 adult members.
Terry Whitley, the senior pastor, made frequent missionary trips, including a trip to Africa this year. He was “humble, patient and a man who loved to joke a lot,” Leach said.
Leach described Janice Whitley, the associate pastor and women’s ministry leader, as personable and easy to talk to, someone who “wore the hat of a friend and mother.”
Timmerman, who also was the chaplain for the Killeen Fire Department, provided financial assistance to families who could not pay their bills and would frequently visit people in the hospital, Leach said. He also provided security at church functions, she said.
She said the church community is shocked by the news, but are using this time to give God praise for their lives.
“We can’t believe it,” Leach said. “Nobody was prepared to wake up this morning to an email of condolences.”
Terry, who founded the church in the 1980s, and Janice were both born in Belton and had two children, according to his bio page on the church’s website.
Timmerman, who retired from the Army in 1996 after serving 22 years, was married to the church’s administrator, according his bio page on the church’s website. The couple had five children, it said.
When Killeen police officer Robert Hornsby was shot and killed in July, Timmerman stayed awake at the hospital with shaken first responders, said Kenneth Hawthorne, a deputy fire chief. They needed a little help with their emotions, Hawthorne said, and Timmerman talked to them just as he talked to next of kin when there was a death in the community, sometimes after a department official roused him in the middle of the night to do so.
“In some cases, he was bigger than life,” Hawthorne said. “He was always there when you needed him.”
Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said Friday that he ordered city flags to be flown at half-staff until after Timmerman’s funeral.