The son of evangelist and mega-church pastor Greg Laurie was killed Thursday, July 24, in a freeway accident involving a California state vehicle.
Chris Laurie, 33, was on his way to the church when his Dodge Magnum hit a California Department of Transportation dump truck. Highway officials say he was traveling alone at a "high rate of speed" in the carpool lane on the 91 freeway, one of the area's main traffic arteries.
Laurie hit the last in a line of street cleaning vehicles around 9 a.m. in morning. The 12-foot truck had been equipped with flashing arrows to alert drivers, but he apparently was not able to stop in time before colliding into the back of the truck.
Authorities say that a special investigation is underway because the accident involved a state vehicle. Although Laurie was alone in the car, it remains unclear whether driving in the carpool lane there would have been a traffic violation at that location.
'He Was Using His Gifts for God'
Chris Laurie served as art director at Harvest Christian Fellowship, the church his father established in Riverside, Calif. Harvest currently serves more than 15,000 members.
Friends remember the 33-year-old as a "great father" to his two-year-old girl Stella. His wife Brittany is expecting their second daughter in November.
On Sunday, Pastor Laurie told his congregation that his faith remained strong and that he was comforted knowing his son was with God.
"It was the most devastating day of my life... But I knew he was in Heaven," he said, choking back tears.
He spoke of the strong relationship he and his son had.
"I loved my son very much. We were very close. It was not a distant relationship... He knew I loved him," he said. I'd give anything to have my son back... But I wasn't given that choice so I just said, 'Lord, he's yours.'"
Chris Laurie had had a few brushes with the law in the past. But in his talk on Sunday, Laurie said his son had really turned a corner in his life, saying that though he was not perfect, he had a "tender heart." He had recently began holding a Bible study in his home.
"He really committed his life to Christ in the last two years of his life," Laurie said. "He was using his gifts for God's glory."
"My son was a prodigal son at times. But he came back," Laurie said later.
Chris' younger brother Jonathan also spoke briefly to the congregation about his big brother.
"Christopher had been really growing deeper with the Lord," Jonathan said. "I know that Chris would want me to tell you all, 'Sooner is better than later to get your life right with Christ."
Church, Friends Remember Chris
Chris also played a key role in stage presentations during Laurie's popular Harvest Crusades. Since 1990, the evangelistic event has drawn more than 3.6 million people.
Jeff Lasseigne, a pastor at the church, told the Press Enterprise Friday that the family was "reeling" from their loss, but would move ahead with plans for a Harvest Crusades in Anaheim Aug. 15-17.
"As you would expect, they are broken-hearted, devastated," he said. "But we are confident that Chris is with the Lord."
Lasseigne remembered Chris for being "his own person" despite the popularity of his father's church. Another member admired him for his devotion.
"He was a fun person to be around and always struck me as someone who was happy to be serving Jesus (and) genuinely concerned with the Kingdom of God," member Eddie Roman wrote on Greg Laurie's blog.
By Monday evening, the page had more than 17,000 entries in memory of his son.
According to the church Web site, a memorial fund, The Christopher Laurie Memorial Fund, has been established to help support Laurie's wife and children.
A private funeral service will be held Aug. 1 at 11 a.m. PST. It will also be broadcasted live on the church Web site.
Sources: Press Enterprise, Los Angeles Times, Harvest Christian Fellowship