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A young couple crushed to death with their infant son by falling debris on a Washington highway have been identified as youth pastors who’d recently celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.
Josh and Vanessa Ellis, both in their mid-20s, died instantly when a massive concrete slab fell from an overpass onto the pickup truck they were driving in Bonney Lake, a suburb southeast of Tacoma. Their 8-month-old son, Hudson, who was sitting in a back seat, also died.
Their identities were confirmed by EastPointe Foursquare Church, where the Ellises served as youth pastors. “We are stunned! Shocked! Wounded, broken and dismayed,” Pastor James Ludlow wrote on Facebook, along with pictures of the family of three. “But we know one thing for sure...they are in glory in the loving arms of our King Jesus!”
Members of the youth group the Ellises led spent Tuesday afternoon sharing their grief and fondest memories of the couple they considered second parents. "They oozed love," one of them, Jordan Obaya, 21, said. "They changed the atmosphere when they walked into a room."
Many of them had memorized a saying that Vanessa Ellis often repeated as her personal philosophy for a life well lived: "Love fiercely. Pray incessantly. Laugh joyously. Rally daily. Never give up."
In a post on the church’s website, the Ellises described themselves as lovers of coffee, drive-in movies, dates at IKEA and trips to the beach. “We love to laugh. We are passionate about seeing young people discover the love and grace that Jesus abundantly pours out on them,” they wrote.
Vanessa Ellis wrote about her pregnancy on a Tumblr page, recalling last summer about how much of what she’d prayed to happen to her had come true: she’d become a youth pastor, gotten married, bought a boat and was about to have her first child. They had just started shopping for a house.
“More than the perfect home, I dream for a happy, healthy and active baby. A little one so full of joy and promise, it oozes out of them every day,” she wrote.
Obaya said the Ellis' friends took consolation that the couple and their baby were on their way to heaven as a family.
"We're glad they'll all be in the same place," Obaya said. "They're together."