The sister of a young boy who was killed in last week’s horrific church bus crash has spoken out about her brother’s faith, calling him a “child of God.” Five children from Avoyelles House of Mercy Church in Marksville, Louisiana, were killed as they traveled through Florida on their way to Disney World January 3. Among the victims was eight grader Jeremiah Warren, who was an active member of the church youth group.
“It was his first time going to Disney,” his sister, Kayla, told PEOPLE. “He never got to go on vacation. He grew up in a single-parent home.” Warren was killed instantly when two semi-trucks and two passenger vehicles were involved in a massive collision that claimed the lives of six others, including a pair of truck drivers. Many of the passengers were ejected from the church bus following the smash.
Kayla noted that her brother was “a very quiet and to himself kind of person” who had aspirations of becoming a lawyer. Above all, however, she said that Warren was a “child of God.” The heartbroken sister also revealed that another of her siblings, who is just nine-years-old, was desperate to go on the trip but was unable to due to a lack of accompanying adults. “I’m thankful that she didn’t go,” Kayla said, “but it’s so terrible that we lost him.”
“We’re at a loss for words,” she added. “We’re heartbroken and devastated.”
Tragically, the church’s pastor, Eric Descant, lost two grandchildren in the accident.
“My Lord Jesus—Though we have lost these precious little babies—Heaven has just been beautified immensely,” he wrote on Facebook shortly after news broke of the incident. “We know Lord they were always Yours! Though it’s hard to fathom that they are back in the Loving Hands of their creator, we will always love them.”
Descant took to Facebook again on Wednesday to thank all those who have offered support during this testing time. “I will try to begin to thank everyone that has came to our rescue. And I will begin with Pastor Jimmy Toney from Gainesville UPC,” he wrote, adding that the minister and his wife had been there to “lovingly, graciously, and very delicately return us back on our feet so that we can begin to deal with this tragedy.”
Other members of the close-knit community said that while the town remained in deep mourning, the congregation are holding tight to Jesus for strength and comfort. “We’re doing the best we can,” said family friend Candice Lemoine. “It’s just tragic when the kids saved their money to make this special trip and never made it there.”
“Our entire community is praying and coming together,” she added.
A fundraising page has since been set up to help families of the victims via StepsCENLA, an organization which strives to “ensure pediatric survival in central and surrounding parishes of Louisiana.”
“All donations will be dispersed evenly to the families of Avoyelles House of Mercy who lost a child or had a child injured in crash,” the page noted. “Please keep these children and their families in your hearts and prayers.”