Priest dies in car accident

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News 12 First at Five, August 3, 2007

GROVETOWN, Ga. - Members of the St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church are grieving the loss of their priest, Father John O' Brien. He was killed Thursday night in a car accident.

Father O'Brien had been priest of the church for less than two months, but he was no stranger to the Augusta area. In the 1980's he was pastor of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, located downtown.

Priest O'Brien was leaving the Ginza Japanese Restaurant on Washington Road when he was involved in a fatal collision. Members of his church says he was the finest priest they'd ever known.

"But most of all he was a humble man. He wanted to help us grow in holiness along with him," says church member, Bernice Phillips.

O'Brien celebrated his first mass as the pastor of the 1,500 member congregation in June.

"He was a very prayerful guy and loving guy, but more so than that he always had time for you. He was a very hospitable and outgoing guy," says member, Liam McArdle.

O'Brien spent nearly four decades with the Diocese. Bishop Kevin Boland released this statement, "This is a devastating loss to the diocese of Savannah and to Father O'Brien's family. Father O'Brien was a priest of the people and a priests' priest. For 38 years he has given outstanding and exemplary service to our diocese."

"He had great leadership skills and he was an inspiration to my family and myself," says Phillips, "I love him dearly and so does my husband and everybody else. We will miss him."

The other victim in the accident was Gregory Earle,44, from Evans. He was released from the hospital this morning and there's no word on whether charges will be filed.

Funeral arrangements have been made for Father O'Brien. There will be a vigil at St. Teresa's, Tuesday, August 7th at 6:00pm. The visitation will be in Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday, August 8th from 10am to 12pm. Funeral mass and burial will follow in Savannah.

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