Richmond chef dies after car crashes into tree

Coworkers remember chef killed in crash

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond restaurant community is mourning the death of a top chef who was killed in an accident.

Terrell V. Thomas, 32, died Thursday after his car ran off the road and hit a tree, according to Henrico police.

Henrico police and fire responded to the 1800 block of Debbie Lane at 4:50 p.m. on Jan. 10 for a report of a vehicle striking a tree.

A Honda CR-V was traveling westbound when it was side-swiped by a Mercury sedan, driven by Thomas, who was traveling eastbound. Thomas then continued straight, ran off the road and struck a tree. He was transported to the hospital where he died.

“He was heading home from work when it happened,” said Tarrant’s Café General Manager Joe Young.

There's still a numbness for employees at Tarrant's several days after Thomas's death.

Young said Thomas was equally loved in the front and back of the house.

“They felt a sense of relief when they knew he was working and knew everything was going to go right,” Young said. “He was extremely level headed; the person you wanted during crunch time.”

Thomas had worked at Tarrant’s for nearly two years, but before that had worked up the street at Comfort, and its sister restaurant Pasture, for a total of six years."

“He was the kind of chef I look for in restaurants,” said Jason Alley, co-owner of Comfort. "He was really level headed and more interested in teaching then showing off.”

Alley said having worked with Thomas for years, he saw his passion for cooking.

"He was a really great team player, and as evidenced by how hard this has hit everybody, there are a lot of kids that came up and he was their mentor inside of our kitchens," Alley said.

“It was really hard,” Young added. “It was very hard finding out. A lot of grief; a lot of sadness.”

While Thomas had his restaurant family he also leaves behind three children and a fiancé.

“She’s very much in shock,” Alley said. “We’re trying to do what we can and really give her space.”

Terrell Thomas leaves behind three children and a fiance (Source: Bliley's Funeral Home)
Terrell Thomas leaves behind three children and a fiance (Source: Bliley's Funeral Home) (Bliley's Funeral Home)

While the reality is still sinking in, Alley and Young said Thomas’s memory will live on through the cooks he taught and his impact in the restaurants.

“He was a super hard-working guy,” Alley said. “He would pretty much outwork anyone on the line with him and it never looked like he was breaking a sweat.”

“He touched a lot of lives and he will continue to do so,” Young added. “As cliché as it sounds, the memory lives on in other people and I think it’s going to make Tarrant’s specifically a little bit stronger and a little closer together.”

In an effort to give back, both restaurants are doing things to try and support the family. "We’re going to create a cocktail, proceeds of which will help out in any way possible," Young said.

“We’re doing a benefit dinner Sunday night at pasture and setting up a GoFundMe page,” Alley said.

The family has asked for privacy as they deal with Thomas’ death.

Henrico police said Thomas was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown into the passenger side of the vehicle during the crash.

The driver of the Honda CR-V did not sustain any injuries.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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