Chamberlain Branch, supervisor at the South Carolina Governors Mansion for three administrations, was one of two people killed in an early morning car wreck in Columbia.
Branch, 48, died of injuries sustained when his minivan was struck by another car that was being chased by Cayce police.
Shyborn Belton, 23, of Columbia, was heading into Columbia on Blossom Street in a 2011 Hyundai when he struck a minivan driven by Branch at the Huger Street intersection, according to Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. Authorities have not said why Belton was fleeing from police.
Both Branch and Belton died at the scene, he said.
Branch worked for Govs. Jim Hodges, Mark Sanford and Nikki Haley. He supervised mansion staff and helped arrange events.
We are heartbroken and feel an incredible loss with Chamberlain's passing, Haley said in a statement. Everyone who knew him loved him. His smile and laugh were contagious. He was a very special part of our family, and his gentle soul, good humor, and care will always be treasured memories for each of us.
Former First Lady Jenny Sanford came to Columbia from her home in Sullivan's Island on Friday to console Branch's wife, Cherisse, and their three children.
"He was a kind and gentle soul," Sanford said. "He was prayerful and loved the lord. He never said an unkind word to or about anyone. He was part of our family."
State Sen. Tom Davis, a Beaufort Republican who was chief of staff under Sanford, said Branch was well respected as the guy you went to for everything.
He was almost a third parent to the Sanford boys, Davis said referring to the former governors four sons. He helped make sure they did their homework and got to sporting events. He loved people. It wasnt just a job to him. It was a vocation. He took great pride with that.
Branch, an A.C. Flora High School graduate, succeeded longtime head butler Willie Brown at the mansion administration a decade ago, Hodges said.
"He handled everything from Easter egg hunts to presidential visits," Hodges said. "He had the unique personality and special skills to do all that. Whether it was the Hodges or the Sanfords or the Haleys, he had the confidence of the First Family."
Scott English, who worked in the Sanford administration including as chief of staff, said Branch was know for his graciousness and positive spirit.
"He never met a total stranger," English said. "Five minutes after people took off their coats, they were close friends with Chamberlain. There was never a bridge too far for him. He gave so much of himself to the Mansion and the state. It's devastating for him to be taken from us so quickly."
A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Columbia. A fund has been set up for the Branch family.
After the initial wreck, the Hyundai driven by Belton also collided with a 2007 mini-van taxi travelling south on Blossom Street, Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins said. The driver of the taxi was uninjured.
Three passengers in the Hyundai were taken to Palmetto Health Richland in serious condition, Watts said.
No one else was in the minivan driven by Branch, he said. The Highway Patrol and its accident investigation team are continuing to investigate.