Panola County church mourns loss of associate pastor, wife; couple’s baby survives crash
PANOLA COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas church congregation is mourning the loss of their associate pastor and his wife.
“Right now I say we’re just pretty much in shock,” said Eastside Baptist Church pastor Raymond Walker.
Hunter and Alexis “Lexi’ Wilkes were killed in a Sunday morning car crash at the Carthage loop and Highway 59 South. They were traveling from their home in Minden, Louisiana to the Eastside Baptist Church in Gary, Texas. Miraculously, the couple’s newborn survived the collision with only a small bruise on his leg. Bro. Walker was notified of the accident just after Sunday services.
“They weren’t here for Sunday school,” Walker said. “The older I get the less I remember, so I wasn’t sure if Hunter had maybe told me they were going to be with his parents or something else that day. And I thought, ‘well, you know, I’ll just go ahead and stay in the class.’ He taught the young people, so I went in there and stayed with them for a while and taught a lesson. And so after church, I was going to call and check on them. But we received the call first. It came right as we had dismissed the morning service and found out they were involved in that accident.”
Walker and his wife went to UT Health East Texas in Carthage to take care of the baby until family members could arrive. He said Wilkes had been with the church for about a year and half. He came from a family of preachers and was attending seminary in Louisiana.
“I’ve been in the ministry for 31 years,” Walker said. “And when I started out, you have a lot of zeal sometimes and you cannot allow people and things to kind of hinder your excitement. So whenever Hunter and Lexi came, they brought a lot of zeal. And it’s helped me a lot to try to be more positive. He (Hunter) said his parents are always positive and I said, ‘well, I need some of that.’ And so a lot of that has helped me through this time. Because it’s easy to get bitter in this world, but they’ve been a blessing.”
Walker said he and the church find peace in knowing the Wilkes are with the Lord and that they will see them again one day.
According to a preliminary DPS investigation, a 2008 Dodge Ram towing a trailer was traveling north on U.S. 59 in the left lane. The report indicates a 2021 Mazda CX5, driven by Hunter Wilkes, was traveling west on the Loop U.S. 59 exit ramp, attempting to turn left onto U.S. 59.
Wilkes entered the intersection and was struck by the 2008 Dodge Ram towing a trailer, officials said. Both Hunter and Alexis were pronounced dead at the scene. The child was taken to the hospital in stable condition.
The 79-year-old male driver of the Dodge Ram was taken to UT Health East Texas in Carthage, where he was reported to be stable.
+ 2 killed in Panola County crash, leave behind 2-month-old son
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