LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) — "I was very, very sad, very upset about it," said Safwan Williams, a longtime friend of Ronnie Allen Jr.
Williams and others who knew Allen and his mother, Ruby Allen, were beyond shocked to learn about their tragic deaths. They died when they were swept away after their car flooded in Charlotte County.
The only survivor was Ronnie's son, Justin, 17.
Williams, who knew Ronnie for 22 years, said he will always remember how he was such a good friend to so many people. They were football teammates in high school.
"His whole reputation was built upon looking out for those that he loved and doing things for his family, even until the last moment of his life," Williams said.
He said his mother Ruby taught generations of kids in Charlotte County, and she was very involved and loved by the community, just like her son Ronnie.
"He was in the process of saving his mother and saving his son, so that definitely lightened the blow," said Williams, describing how he feels the tragedy turned into an honorable effort. Williams said Ronnie tried desperately to save both his mother and son, but she slipped away.
"His hand was clamped so tight when they found him, that they couldn't even open it, and her rings were inside of his hand, so you know, he was trying to hold on to her," he said.
He said Ronnie then couldn't hold on any longer after trying to save his mother. As they both clung to life, Ronnie found the strength to leave some final instructions for his son.
"He told his son, 'You know, no matter what you do, don't let go of that guard rail. Hold on to that guard rail no matter what,'" Williams said, adding how Ronnie then said his last words to his son. "Stay strong. I love you. I'll always look down on you."
Williams said Ronnie would want his family and friends to look out for everyone, just as he did until the end. "He would probably tell everybody to keep smiling, to do good things for their family members and their loved ones," he said.
Ronnie Allen, Jr. would have turned 37 on his birthday on October 18.
Williams said Ronnie did exactly what he did all his life until his last moments, looking out for others. He said Ronnie and his mother Ruby will be dearly missed and forever remembered. Their legacies will live on through Ronnie's son and their family.