A Hale County family lost a beloved husband and grandfather Wednesday when the car he was driving was hit by a train.
The accident occurred north of Hale Center just after noon.
James Roy Collins, 83, was pronounced dead shortly after the collision near the intersection of County Road Q and the access road for Interstate 27.
Collins' family says he was known as ‘J. R.'
He was a preacher in the area for three decades and they say he didn't know a stranger in Plainview.
"I think reality just hit me," Collins' son Mike said.
Mike held his father J. R.'s adopted great-granddaughter Maegan as they prepared to tell Collins' wife - their mother - the tragic news.
"He won't be able to take care of her anymore. It'll be up to me, my brother, and my sister and my grand kids," Mike said.
Collins lived just up the county road from the railroad tracks. Mike says his father was leaving to see his wife in a Plainview care facility, but he never made it.
"I don't know [what happened], unless he had his mind on going to Plainview to take care of my mother and didn't see the train or hear the whistle," Mike said.
With no crossing guards at the intersection, state troopers with the highway patrol say Collins tried to cross and failed to yield the right of way to the northbound train.
Collins adopted Maegan and her siblings when she was four. He raised them as he preached for several churches around Plainview and Hale Center.
"He was my dad," Maegan said, holding back tears. "He raised me. He was my daddy."
Just after the accident, Mike searched through the wreckage and was able to find his father's wedding ring and a few other items - small memories of a man they'll never forget.
Maegan knows her great grandfather loves her, but wishes she had been able to tell him before he left.
"I would tell him I loved him one more time," Maegan said.
"I'd tell him how much I appreciate what he'd done for me as I was growing up, and what a good father he was," Mike said.
Mike was able to tell his father he loved him just before he was pronounced dead.
"I don't know if he heard me or not, but I got to tell him I love him," Mike said.
Mike says Aerocare landed at the scene and was ready to take Collins to UMC in Lubbock, but he passed away before the chopper left.
The Department of Public Safety and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company continue to investigate the accident.
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