Family and friends on Sunday remembered a 77-year-old pastor who died when a suspected drunken driver slammed into his car in a wrong-way crash as a "sweet spirit" with a zest for life.
Manard Giles Jr., the pastor at The Answer Community Church, died in the crash on the Antelope Valley Freeway in Santa Clarita on Saturday, Los Angeles County Coroner's officials said. The crash also severely injured Giles' two passengers, both church members, family members said.
"Even at 77-years-old he would say, 'I have a lot of life left in me,'" said Pastor Cornelius Edwards during a service at the Lancaster church. "We just loved him. I don't know anyone who didn't."
The pastor's son, the Reverend Benjamin Munnerlyn, mustered the strength to speak at the service.
"I thank God I can be here today, be a part of the service and encourage all of you to go on," he said.
Giles and his passengers were returning home from a church retreat in San Diego when the crash occurred. The crash occurred before dawn when Bradford E. Pate, 38, allegedly steered his 2006 Toyota truck south onto the northbound lanes and collided with Giles' 2006 Chrysler 300 on the 14 Freeway near Escondido Canyon Road.
Giles' passenger, Lennard A. Wilds, 47, of Lancaster, was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in critical condition, according to a California Highway Patrol statement. Wilds is the pastor's aid.
Wilds' wife, Agnes, told NBC4 on Sunday that he remained unconscious.
Another passenger in Giles' vehicle, Matty Ferguson, was taken to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Burbank where she was on life support, Agnes Wilds said. She is the church secretary.
Pate, of Burbank, suffered major injuries and was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. He was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving causing injury, according to the CHP.
The crash shut down northbound traffic for hours, CHP Officer Cheyenne Quesada said.
It was the second time in a week that a wrong-way driver caused a crash on that stretch of freeway.
A driver accused of being high on methamphetamines was arrested in a wrong-way crash on Tuesday that wounded 13 people and caused a pileup that shut down the freeway for hours.
Nyree Arabian contributed to this report.
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