Boulevard crash victims are mourned at funeral

The casket of Samara Banks and her 7-month-old, killed with two other sons while crossing Roosevelt Boulevard, is carried from Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia. They died July 16 after being struck by a speeding vehicle. Story, photos, B2.
The casket of Samara Banks and her 7-month-old, killed with two other sons while crossing Roosevelt Boulevard, is carried from Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia. They died July 16 after being struck by a speeding vehicle. Story, photos, B2. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 29, 2013

Four people - a mother and her children - died on Roosevelt Boulevard two weeks ago, mowed down by a speeding car as they tried to cross the dangerous highway.

On Saturday, the victims were laid to rest in three white coffins.

The youngest victim, a 7-month-old boy, was buried beside his mother in the same casket. On either side, creating a somber tableau, two other boys lay in smaller caskets.

At a service at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia, Samara Banks was eulogized as a devoted mother inseparable from her four sons.

"You protected and loved your boys until you left this earth," said Tara Banks, a cousin.

"I miss my sister so much," said Banks' younger sibling, Shaquetta Jones, fighting back tears.

Saa'yon Griffin, 5, the oldest of Banks' four children, survived the crash and was at the funeral, family members said.

Hundreds of others, including family and friends, sat in the cavernous chamber and grieved during the proceedings. They sang along and nodded their heads to music and dance performances, and listened to Bible readings and expressions of comfort from deacons and other members of several churches. "Samara has left an awesome legacy," Pastor Sandra Brown told the crowd. "She loved her family, she loved her children, she loved the Lord."

Banks, 27, and three of her sons - Saa'deem Griffin, 4; Saa'sean Williams, 23 months; and Saa'mir Williams, 7 months - died July 16 as they tried to cross the Boulevard near Second Street.

They were hit by an Audi that eyewitnesses said was drag-racing with a Honda. Banks and Saa'sean were pronounced dead at the scene, Saa'mir died at Einstein Medical Center, and Saa'deem was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, where he died at 4:45 a.m. July 17.

The drivers allegedly racing - Khusen Akhmedov, 23, of Lancaster, who drove the Audi that hit Banks and her children, and Ahmen Holloman, 30, of the Castor Gardens section of Northeast Philadelphia, who drove the Honda - were charged the next day with homicide by vehicle, third-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and related offenses.

Akhmedov and Holloman stayed at the scene after the accident. Akhmedov has a history of driving-related offenses, including speeding and reckless driving, and his license was suspended in 2011.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Banks and her children were not the focus of Saturday's proceedings. Instead, family members chose to remember the departed for the lives they had lived. "My love runs deeper than any words can ever describe," said Banks' cousin Tiffany Williams. "Even though you're gone, you'll always live in my heart."


Contact Chris Palmer at 609-217-8305 or cpalmer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter@cs_palmer.

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