On the family's way home around 10 p.m., Freeman found himself in the traffic backup from construction on Beltway 8 near JFK. He didn't realize that moments later, he would be in the direct path of a speeding truck.
Freeman's small Chevy Cavalier, with his two children in their child car seats, was struck with such force that it crushed the car and that wreckage then struck an SUV. The family was killed upon impact.
In all, seven vehicles including the speeding F150 pickup truck were part of the chain reaction crash. A mother and her teenage daughter, according to Houston police, were able to escape the SUV wreckage.
The pickup truck driver was said to have minor injuries.
Accident investigators shut down the roadway to examine a span of tire tread marks they said extended 300 feet, nearly the length of a football field. Alcohol, according to Megan Howard with HPD Night Command did not appear to be a factor in the crash.
"Speed does appear to be the cause," she said.
Donald Freeman said he passed the scene on his way to work, but had no idea his brother, niece and nephew were dead.
"I learned about it later on the news," he said. "Alcohol may not have been a part of it, but something else was going on."
"He was my little brother," Freeman, who is an assistant pastor at Trinity Gardens First Baptist Church, said. "He did everything right. He had his seat belt on, made sure his kids were buckled in their safety seats. He did everything right, and then this guy comes speeding, and hits them hard enough to push over another truck?"
Heywood Freeman grew up in northeast Houston, played football and ran track at Kashmere High School and maintained close contact with his fellow players. That includes Mackenzie Himes, who's a pastor. Freeman and his youngest children recently started attending services at Fountain of Love Church.
"With so many bad people out there, when you lose a good one, it hits your heart real hard," Himes said. "Heywood was a good one. A good father and a good man."
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