RACINE -- Family members, friends and co-workers gathered Tuesday, December 27th to celebrate the life of Pastor Mark Gates. The beloved pastor was also a City of Racine sanitation worker. He was struck by a vehicle and killed while collecting recyclables on December 14th.
Mark Gates was described by those who knew him as someone who loved everyone he met. He split his time between church and his job as a sanitation worker, and FOX6 News was told he had an impact on everyone whose lives he touched.
"Our pastor was huge. He had lots of love," Zeatha Fondon said. "Tonight is a night of praise and worship -- and that`s one of the things our pastor loved to do."
It was a standing-room-only gathering to sing, pray and love at Christ Chapel in Racine.
"I miss him. I got a hole in my heart, and I told myself that hole in my heart is going to be the smile he carried on his face. I still can't put it into words what that day was like for me -- December 14th," Ethel Gates, Mark Gates' mother said.
The collision occurred on Washington Avenue and Oregon Street. Gates was struck by a vehicle while collecting recyclables Wednesday morning.
A silver Mustang crashed into the back end of a Racine DPW garbage truck parked in the right lane with its safety flashers activated. A recycling bin was loaded on the mechanical apparatus to dump the recycling bin into the truck.
Gates was taken via Flight for Life to Froedtert Hospital -- where he later died.
Benjamin Bell faces one count of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and one count of first degree recklessly endangering safety in this case.
The criminal complaint indicates Gates was found pinned between the front end of the Mustang and the back of the garbage truck. Gates was taken to the hospital via Flight for Life — where he died.
The complaint states Benjamin Bell was driving the Mustang. Skid/tire marks were found beginning just west of Indiana Street and extending west to the intersection of Oregon/Washington. Just west of Oregon Street, the complaint indicates the right wheels of the Mustang mounted the piled snow along the north curb line and rode on the snow until it impacted the garbage truck.
An officer noted an odor of marijuana coming from the Mustang after the crash, according to the complaint.
One witness told officers the Mustang passed him on Washington Avenue at Lathrop, and it was traveling at approximately 60 miles-per-hour.
Another witness said he saw the Mustang changing from one lane to another to pass vehicles, and he estimated the Mustang was traveling 10 to 15 miles per hour over the posted 30 miles-per-hour speed limit.
A third witness said she saw the Mustang driving recklessly on Washington Avenue — traveling at a high rate of speed and weaving between lanes to pass vehicles.
A passenger in the Mustang told investigators he believed Bell was going no more than five miles over the speed limit — and he was texting, and looked up, and the garbage truck was right in front of him.
Gates' mother said despite these details, she's choosing to love.
"There`s always love in my heart for him and his family," Ethel Gates said.
She said that's what her son would do.
"'I love you, and ain't nothing you can do but love me back.' That was one of his sayings to us," Ethel Gates said.
The 48-year-old pastor has left behind his wife, mother, father, two brothers and a legacy of love.
"Didn`t have everything, but we had love. That was the key," Ethel Gates said.
Mark Gates' funeral will be held Wednesday, December 28th at 10:00 a.m. at the Racine Civic Center.
In order to allow his co-workers from the city to attend, garbage collection will begin at 5:00 a.m. rather than 7:00 a.m. Wednesday.