Kayla Powell prays while crying Friday evening at the site on South Grace Street where three of her friends lost their lives in a single-vehicle accident on Friday morning.
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Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Kayla Powell prays while crying Friday evening at the site on South Grace Street where three of her friends lost their lives in a single-vehicle accident on Friday morning.

Community mourns crash victims

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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Social media was awash Friday with messages of peace and prayer after news spread of the sudden deaths of three young Rocky Mount men in a fiery wreck.

The three were killed early Friday morning when their car hit a downtown building and burst into flames.

“My mom called me earlier this morning and told me, but I had my wisdom teeth removed recently so I was out of it and didn’t believe it,” said Xavier Maryland, a friend of one of the victims. “As the day went on, I saw people posting online and calling me about it, so I had to accept it was real.”

Rocky Mount police responded to the wreck around 2 a.m. near the intersection of South Grace and Chester streets. Responding officers reported a 2001 Lincoln LS had left the road and collided with a brick building, bursting into flames.

Rocky Mount fire crews extinguished the blaze, but the three occupants of the vehicle had died. Authorities have not released the identities of the victims, but the driver of the vehicle is believed to have been Kyol Allen-Gailliard and the passengers were Jason Britt and Dennis Battle, according to sources close to family members.

Allen-Gailliard, 27, was the eldest son of the Rev. James Gailliard, pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, who said he was stunned to receive the news early Friday morning from officers.

“It was a real shock, not only for our church, but the entire community,” Gailliard said.

Allen-Gailliard was the father of two young girls and had worked at Word Tabernacle since it was started by the veteran pastor in 2005. He used his technology skills to manage the sound engineering along with audio and video operations of the church located at the intersection of Nashville Road and West Raleigh Boulevard.

“He was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he went to a high school specifically for technology and then attended community college for it,” Gailliard said. “I want people to remember how loving and sensitive he was. He really cared about people.”

Maryland said he bonded with Allen-Gailliard over photography, often borrowing equipment from him, who always was happy to lend a hand.

“The thing I’ll remember most is that he was always upbeat. I never saw him with his head down, even when he was going through something,” Maryland said. “He treated everyone like his friend, and there are a lot of people in this community that have great memories with him.”

Authorities are waiting for autopsy results before they officially release the identifies of the three victims. Gailliard said the men with his son had ties to the faith-based community also. He asked that prayers be raised for all the families involved.

“I’m appreciative of everyone in the city because the support really has been overwhelming,” he said. “I don’t think there has been an area I have not gotten a phone call of support from, but two other young men were in the car and two other families need as much support as I do.”

Greater Joy Baptist Church Bishop Shelton Daniel said the loss of the three young men is felt far and wide.

“This has affected the faith-based community, period,” Daniel said. “All of us as a whole are tied to these families, so this is the time to rally behind all of those involved. All of these families need to be lifted up in prayers from throughout the city.”

The cause of the wreck is under investigation. Police said they do not believe anyone else was involved in the incident.

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