Friends remember 2 men lost in Mississippi highway collapse

Published 5:07 am Sunday, October 10, 2021

Kent Brown and Jerry Lee died on Aug. 30 after their vehicles fell into a collapsed portion of Highway 26 near Lucedale, Mississippi.

The men were in separate vehicles and both were on their way home after running errands. A third victim, 39-year-old Amanda Williams, died almost two weeks later from injuries she sustained after her truck also fell in the hole.

Ground saturation due to the accumulation of record rainfall this year combined with a foot of rain from Hurricane Ida in less than 24 hours and a burst runoff pipe likely caused the road to collapse, Mississippi Department of Transportation officials said.

Both men have been described as loving, hard-working family men. Here’s who they were.

KENT BROWN

Kent Brown, 49, lived in Leakesville and was a father of two.

Brown and his friend, Irvin Clark, were on the way to Clark’s Leakesville home after dropping a friend off in Wiggins. The trio rode out Hurricane Ida at Clark’s home earlier in the day.

On the way to Wiggins, Clark and Brown argued about taking Highway 26, Clark said. Clark said he doesn’t like driving on the road at night.

By the time the two friends were heading back east back to Leakesville, they were having a good time, then the roadway was seemingly ripped from the wheels of Brown’s Honda Civic.

“He was one of the best people you’d ever meet in your life,” said Clark as he sat on a medical scooter on Sunday, Sept. 19, overlooking the hole where he last saw his friend.

He described Brown as a teddy bear with a great smile, “the prettiest blue eyes you’d ever seen,” and a loving father, son, brother and friend. He added that if someone asked, Brown would always lend a helping hand.

A 1991 graduate of Greene County High School, Brown went to work as a pipefitter to support his family, Clark said.

“He loved them so much,” Clark said, adding Brown always talked about his children and his father, saying they were his world.

“Farewell my brother, I love you,” Clark said looking at a cross near the hole bearing Brown’s name. “Keep smiling down from Heaven, but I’ll see you when I come home. I love you.”

Brown’s funeral was Sept. 3 at Mt. Pisgah Pentecostal Church. He was buried the next day in the church’s cemetery.

JERRY LEE

Jerry Lee, 49, of Lucedale, had four children and four grandchildren. He died on Aug. 30 after his 2002 Chevrolet Silverado plunged into a hole in Highway 26 caused by excessive rain from Hurricane Ida and a broken runoff pipe near Crossroads Methodist Church.

Lee was traveling west from Lucedale when his truck became airborne before crashing into an embankment on the opposite side of the hole.

“His greatest joy was his family, especially his children and grandchildren,” his obituary said.

Lee, 49, was a 1990 graduate of Greene County High School, according to his obituary. Lee was a longtime member of local Union 568 and worked as a welder at a Chevron Plant.

Beyond his work, Lee was an avid outdoorsmen and a member of the Mississippi State Gamebird Association.

Lee’s funeral was Sept. 7 at Moments Funeral Home chapel. He was buried at Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery in Deer Park, Alabama.