Plane en route to youth conference crashes, 4 die

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) - A recent Oral Roberts University graduate was the only one of five people en route to a Christian youth conference to survive a plane crash in southeastern Kansas, officials said Saturday.

The twin-engine Cessna 401 went down Friday afternoon about 9 miles west of Chanute, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. The small aircraft landed on a field and skidded about 200 feet before hitting a tree line.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board on Saturday said the pilot had been in contact with air traffic controllers, but there was no distress call.

"There was an altitude change and that was the last transmission," said spokesman Peter Knudson.

The aircraft caught fire after the crash.

Texas-based Teen Mania Ministries said the eight-seat plane, manufactured in 1991, was headed for the Acquire the Fire conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

It had taken off from an airport near Tulsa, Oklahoma, said Elizabeth Cory, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman. Oral Roberts University is based in Tulsa.

Killed were Luke F. Sheets, 23, of Ephraim, Wisconsin, the pilot; Austin G. Anderson, 27; Stephen J. Luth, 22, of Muscatine, Iowa; all recent Oral Roberts graduates; and Garrett V. Coble, 29, of Tulsa, a former instructor in the College of Business and a participant in mission trips.

Anderson survived the crash, but died of his injuries early Saturday. He had served two tours of duty with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq.

Hannah Luce, 22, daughter of Oral Roberts trustee and Teen Mania founder Ron Luce, was hospitalized in Kansas City, Missouri.

"Please pray for all of the families that lost loved ones and for Hannah in the hospital. Pray for God's peace to be with all of them and pray for Hannah's healing," Oral Roberts President Mark Rutland said on the university's Facebook page.

Luce on Saturday was in serious but stable condition, with burns on 28% of her body, according to Teen Mania.

Anderson and Luth recently had been hired to the marketing staff of Teen Mania Ministries, a youth ministry organization.

"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," Ron Luce said in a statement. "They all had a heart for this generation, and were passionately pursuing God's call on their lives."

Investigators had not yet identified any witnesses, Knudson told CNN. He did not have information on weather conditions at the time of the incident.

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