Saint Pauls, N.C. — The Robeson County community of Saint Pauls is grieving after a weekend collision that killed both a 16-year-old boy and the pastor of a local church.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said Zachery Murdock, 16, was traveling 65 mph north on U.S. Highway 301 near Lumberton on Saturday when his 1993 Ford Ranger truck crossed the center line and collided head-on with a 2005 Ford Expedition driven by Frank Strickland, 32.
Murdock died instantly, authorities said, before his truck burst into flames. Strickland's SUV landed in a ditch. His wife and daughter were taken to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
Both Murdock and Strickland are being remembered as compassionate and fully devoted to their faith in God.
Strickland started last summer as pastor of New Beginnings Church of God in Saint Pauls – a leadership role that family members said Strickland felt he was called to take. He was described as a "true man of God."
Murdock was the son of the pastor at Westview Pentecostal Holiness Church.
"Everybody knew that (Zach) loved the Lord," said Adrian Hammonds, a guidance counselor at Lumberton High School, where Murdock was a student.
Murdock was on his way to work at a Chick-fil-A in Lumberton at the time of the wreck. About 100 people gathered at the restaurant Sunday to grieve.
Hammonds said the teen, who was in the top 10 percent of his class and served as a mentor to freshmen, had so much going for him.
"He was preparing himself to be an engineer, maybe in the military," Hammonds said. "He was taking our most rigorous courses to prepare himself for that."