A Phenix City man was killed late Sunday night when he lost control of the rental car he was driving on Second Avenue in Columbus, ran off the road, struck a church and utility pole before the vehicle landed upside down back in the road.
Lewis R. Williams Jr., 32, was pronounced dead shortly before midnight at The Medical Center. Speed and alcohol were believed to be factors in the wreck, Columbus Police Lt. Renee McAneny said.
Monday morning, members of Shady Grove Baptist Church at the intersection of Second Avenue and Talbotton Road were cleaning up the bricks and other debris left from the overnight wreck.
"You can't lose sight of the fact that this is just brick," said Shady Grove deacon Joseph Pugh. "There is a gentleman who lost his life here last night. There is a family somewhere we need to be thinking about."
Williams was driving a 2008 Nissan Altima south toward downtown when the car travelling at a high rate of speed veered off the road struck a street sign, then glanced a wooden utility pole before hitting the front of the church. The car careened off the brick building and struck the brick entrance steps and two brick columns, which were destroyed.
The car then began a barrel roll before striking a large concrete utility pole about 10 feet off the ground. The car came to rest back in the street on its roof.
Williams, of 14 Ferrell Road in Phenix City, died of blunt-force trauma injuries. Police reports showed no record of Williams having a driver's license, but he did have an Alabama identification card.
Police received first call of the wreck at 11:37 p.m. and it took officers just two minutes to arrive. Williams was pronounced dead at 11:57 p.m. a short distance away at The Medical Center.
Church officials were assessing the damage to the front of the building. The cost of the repairs had not determined, Pugh said.
The Altima was destroyed. The engine was completely dislodged and in the passenger compartment, witnesses said. The car was registered to Alamo Rental Car, 2911 Airport Thruway.
"If you had seen that car, you would not recognize what kind of car it was," Pugh said.
The location of the fatal wreck — the front door of a church — was not lost on Pugh and others cleaning up the mess.
"Kind of ironic, isn't it?" Pugh said.