A twin engine plane that took off from Jones Riverside Airport has crashed in rural Kansas, killing four men.
The 8-seat Cessna 401, which bears the emblem of an eagle and an American flag on the tail, was en route to an airport in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The plane went down in a rural area northeast of High Prairie Church, Kansas, around Friday.
A total of five passengers were on board. Three men, including the pilot, were pronounced dead at the scene, and a man and a woman were taken to the hospital in critical condition, according to officials.
The NTSB said the plane lost contact with air traffic control shortly after getting permission to descend to a lower altitude. Investigators were unaware of any distress call.
A report from the Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims as pilot Luke Sheets, 23, of Ephraim, Wisconsin; Garrett Coble, 29, of Tulsa; and Stephen Luth, 22, of Muscatine, Iowa. Austin Anderson, 27, of Ringwood, Oklahoma; and Hannah Luce, 22, of Golden Valley, Texas were hospitalized. Anderson later died at a Wichita hospital while Luce is in critical condition. The crash report states the aircraft landed in a field, skidded 200 feet and impacted a tree line, then spun 180 degrees and caught fire.
Firefighters worked for several hours getting control of the fiery wreckage. The NTSB will investigate what caused the crash.
The group was heading to Council Bluffs, Iowa for the Acquire The Fire event. Teen Mania Ministries was affiliated with the event and had recently hired Anderson and Luth to their marketing staff. Coble had been affiliated with the group and served on 15 missions trips.
Teen Mania was founded by Ron Luce, father of Hannah Luce. In a press release, Luce described all those on board the plane as being committed Christians who had a passion to reach the younger generation.
He said, “We are so saddened by what has happened and ask for all those who have been touched by this ministry in some way to rally around the families of all involved in the crash, especially the four young men who passed away. Please lift them up in prayer, and ask for the Holy Spirit to surround them with God’s love and peace,”
Luce said. “They all had a heart for this generation, and were passionately pursuing God’s call on their lives.”
Garrett Coble's Facebook page says he attended Oklahoma State and studied marketing and was an assistant professor of marketing at NSU-BA, and was recently engaged. Stephen Luth's Facebook page says he attended Oral Roberts University. Austin Anderson was a recent ORU graduate.
Late Friday, FOX23 spoke with a Bill Austin, a plane dealer in Tennessee, who says he sold the plane a few of weeks ago. He declined to name the buyer but he believed the buyer was from the Muskogee area. He said he knew of no prior problems with the plane.
Austin said the previous owner of the plane was a huge fan of country music star Aaron Tippin, and had the plane outfitted with the eagle and flag emblem. The new buyer was also a Tippin fan. Austin, who is a personal friend of the Tippins, said Aaron Tippin actually flew the plane to Tulsa, to Jones Riverside Airport, a few weeks ago, and met the pilot, Luke Sheets, and some of the other young men.
Of pilot Luke Sheets, Austin said, "He was just a wonderful young man, God-fearing man, it's a terrible loss."
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