The Rev. Tony Richardson spends much of his time comforting and guiding the members of his Johns Island parish in times of need.
But he and his wife, Karen, said the roles were very much reversed Monday as the family grieved the loss of their two eldest sons after a wreck the day before. Parishioners, friends and relatives crowded the family home in Wando, offering support.
“There’s nothing you can say,” Karen Richardson said, at a loss for the right words to fully describe their pain.
Matthew Richardson, 19, and Kelvin Richardson, 17, were on their way to church Sunday when their Jeep ran off Cainhoy Road in Berkeley County, barrelled through a chain-link fence and rammed into a tree in a violent impact that peppered a nearby home with shattered glass.
The home’s owner, George Snider, heard the sound and thought lightning struck the tree in his front yard. He said he stepped outside and was shocked to see the scene that lay before him.
Emergency workers arrived, and had to cut the brothers out of the vehicle, Snider said. He turned away, not wanting to see their bodies.
There were no skid marks on the road Monday. But a tire track in the dirt, still soft from Sunday’s rain, showed the path their vehicle took.
A hairbrush, a broken CD and a pack of gum sat alongside what remained of the Jeep’s headlights. A reminder for a dentist appointment scheduled for February — a white business card with “Matthew” penned in blue ink — sat on the ground near the base of the tree.
News of the tragedy spread quickly throughout the small community on Tyler Lane in Wando where the brothers grew up.
Their maternal grandmother, Vernell McCullough, sat alone in a red sport utility vehicle parked in the home’s front yard Monday morning.
“I just needed to get away from it all for a little while,” she said. “I just wanted to be alone with my boys.”
Walking from his home across the street, Nathaniel Brown spotted McCullough, and reached out a hand to offer his condolences.
“We’re all family here. I’ve known those boys since they were small,” Brown said as he lowered his hand, palm down, just below his knee, alluding to the height of a child. “I didn’t want it to be them. But I didn’t want it to be anyone else either. You never want to see anyone’s children get hurt.”
The two brothers were well-known throughout their community as musicians. Kelvin was partial to the drums, his parents said. Matthew was skilled with several instruments, including the piano, organ and guitar.
Matthew Richardson graduated from Hanahan High School last year, his family said. Kelvin Richardson was a junior at the school.
Hanahan principal Richard Raycroft referred all comments on the tragedy to the Berkeley County School District.
But with tears building in his eyes, Raycroft added: “The Richardsons are a wonderful family. We’re all devastated.”
A candlelight vigil will be held on the school’s track at 8 p.m. today. Raycroft said the event is open to the public.
A public candlelight vigil will be held at Hanahan High School’s track at 8 p.m. today in memory of Matthew and Kelvin Richardson, sons of Karen (left) and the Rev. Tony Richardson of Wando.×
Matthew Richardson, 19, and Kelvin Richardson, 17, were killed Sunday when their car crashed into this Cainhoy Road yard and tree in Berkeley County.×
Vernell McCullough weeps as she talks about the deaths of her grandsons Matthew and Kelvin Richardson, who were killed in a car crash on their way to church Sunday.×