Single-car accident claims life of Bryan Funeral Service owner
Published 1:01 pm Monday, December 2, 2019
Steve Bryan of Columbia died Nov. 30 in a single-car accident south of Northwest Fork bridge on N.C. Hwy 94 in Tyrrell County. Bryan turned 77 two days before his death.
A motorist called 911 at 5:09 p.m. and reported coming upon a vehicle upside down beside the highway. It appeared Bryan had gone onto the right shoulder, overturned and came to rest in the ditch, State Trooper Andrew Hughes said.
Bryan reportedly was en route from Columbia to meet with his business partner, Edward Torres and family, in an Engelhard restaurant. He was alone at the time. He was driving a 2017 Ford Explorer XLT, the trooper said.
The motorist who called for help said Bryan was inside the vehicle but unresponsive and apparently had died before he arrived on scene, the trooper reported.
The six-mile straight stretch between Kilkenny community and Northwest Fork bridge, in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, is uninhabited and well known for crossings of black bears and deer.
However, Trooper Hughes said there was no evidence Bryan tried to avoid a collision with an animal or object in the road.
A close friend speculated that Bryan may have suffered a heart attack.
Tyrrell County Sheriff Kevin Sawyer said no autopsy was planned.
Bryan was owner and president of Bryan Funeral Service with facilities in Columbia, Plymouth and Swan Quarter. He was lay pastor of Columbia Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and president of the Tyrrell County Ministerial Association; and a charter member of the Greater Tyrrell Chamber of Commerce. He was a Rotarian.
Bryan helped organize Inner Banks Hotline in Columbia in 2011 and continued his support to the present, said Janie Spencer, executive director.
He highly encouraged the ministerial association in supporting the “backpack” program to furnish food items to school children on weekends and was responsible for a recent expansion of the program, Rev. Royce Reynolds stated.
Bryan was critical to Scuppernong River Festival infrastructure, obtaining chairs, portable toilets, tents and such, said town manager Rhett White. “He will be greatly missed in the community, frankly in ways we’re not even thinking about now.”
“He was a dear friend to law enforcement, and we are all very saddened by the loss of this distinguished member of our community,” Sheriff Sawyer said.
“Our hearts are broken following the unexpected loss of Mr. Steve Bryan,” Washington-Tyrrell EMS posted. “Steve truly had a servant’s heart and was a dedicated partner to our agency who loved, prayed for and made himself available 24/7 as a friend and chaplain to every EMS provider.”
The EMS post went on to state that “He also shared in the vision to breathe life back into downtown Plymouth and was very active with the other downtown business owners. Steve’s warm smile and gentle words of encouragement will be missed greatly.”
Bryan, who grew up on a farm in Garner in Wake County, came to Swan Quarter in 1986 after buying the former Owens Funeral Home. In 1994 he began his association with Edward Torres, a Costa Rican who came to Swan Quarter as a high schooler and is now vice president of the corporation.
Bryan opened a funeral home in Columbia in 2007 and later built a facility on L.A. Keiser Drive. Bryan purchased the Hampton Academy in Plymouth’s historic district and open a third funeral home there in 2015.
“We would like to thank each and every one for their expressions of love and support during this difficult time,” said Torres.