Another Passenger Remains In Critical Condition
Three Columbus men, all family men and veterans of the steel building industry in this area, were killed near Hattiesburg late last Friday afternoon as they were returning to Columbus from a construction project. A fourth man remains in critical condition from injuries sustained in the accident.
The accident occurred around 6:00 p.m. when a rear tire apparently blew out on the pickup men were riding in and the vehicle hit a tree. Rain was falling at the time but was not the primary cause of the accident. The vehicle was northbound on Hwy 49 and had just passed the Hwy 13 intersection when the accident occurred. Family members of the victims all told the Packet that five men were riding in the pickup but a Highway Patrol spokesman said there were only four.
The deceased are Henry Lee Wilson, Carson Payne and Tommie McCarty. Critically injured was Bennie Wilson, Henry Lee Wilson’s brother. They were employed by Precision Metal Buildings—the company was originally known as T & W Steel Buildings and was founded 16 years ago by Henry Lee Wilson and Anthony Thompson. They had been working on the “America’s Great Truck Stop” project in Biloxi.
Anthony Thompson, who was not involved in the accident, told the Packet, “They will be greatly missed. They were hard-working family men who would do anyting for you. It’s such a tragedy.”
Payne had worked for Harpole Steel Buildings of Columbus for many years. Company president Bunk Harpole said of him, “He was a really good man. He was saved. It’s a shame.”
Payne, known as So Sweet, was a standout athlete at Caldwell High School (Class of ’75), starring in football, basketball and track. He leaves his wife, the former Annie McGregory, and five children. Services will be Saturday, April 23, at 2:00 p.m. at Canaan M.B. Church. Visitation will be from 3:00 till 8:00 p.m. on Friday at Carter’s Funeral Home.
Henry Lee Wilson, a Plum Grove native, leaves his wife of 17 years, Cornette, and five children. Funeral services will be Saturday, April 23, at 11:00 a.m. at 15th St. Church of God in Christ. Visitation will be at Carter’s Funeral Home from 3:00 till 8:00 p.m. on Friday. Tommy Hunter, an employee of T & M Steel Buildings, told the Packet that he knew all three men but was particularly close to Wilson. He said that he and Wilson “came up from teenage years” on the South Side and worked together at T & M Steel Buildings. “He was a good guy,” he said.
McCarty, known as Buckwheat, had been married for only a month at the time of his death. His wife, Lisa, was preparing supper for him at their home in Columbus when the accident occurred. They had no children. Brent Hollis said that he first worked with McCarty at Graham Roofing Co. He said that McCarty went to work at Graham Roofing in 2005 and worked there until 2009. He said that McCarty “had a tough life growing up” and had spent some time in prison before asking for a job at Graham Roofing. Hollis recalled, “He said, ‘I’ve been in prison but I’m a changed man,’” and Hollis said he was a fine employee. After McCarty left Graham Roofing Hollis would still call on him to help him with personal projects. Hollis said, “In five or six years of working with him I only heard him use a curse word once, and then he told me he shouldn’t have said it. He had turned his life around.” Hollis said, “He was always there to help me. He had a new cell phone and called me Tuesday just to say hello. He said he’d been out of town two or three weeks.”
McCarty’s funeral will be tomorrow (Friday) at 1:00 p.m. at Canaan M.B. Church. Lee-Sykes Funeral Home refused to give any other information late yesterday afternoon.
Columbus Councilman Kabir Karriem said of the tragedy, “It’s a real unfortunate situation and I hope the community will take time to embrace the families.” He said the families had been deprived of their pillars and breadwinners. He went on, “This is one time that they’ll need support. Anytime you lose individuals in the community it’s a real impact.”
Karriem added, “I don’t know whiy we haven’t heard a whole lot about the accident as far as the media is concerned, but it’s a great loss and I hope the community responds and helps the families with thoughts and prayers.”0