Father of Kansas plane crash survivor speaks

May 13, 2012, 11:06 PM

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Ron Luce didn’t recognize the voice of the woman who phoned Friday to say his daughter Hannah was with her, and was fine.

Her words didn’t make any sense to the Texas minister and founder of a Christian organization that reaches out to troubled youths. How could Hannah be with this woman when she was on a plane, headed to a Christian youth rally in Iowa?

“The way I discovered about my daughter and the plane accident was probably the most unscripted way you could imagine,” Luce said Sunday during a news conference at University of Kansas Hospital, where his 22-year-old daughter was in serious condition with burns over 28 percent of her body. “I asked (the woman), `Where’s the plane?’ She said it’s off in the distance, and there are flames, there’s smoke.”

Hannah Luce is the only one of five people who survived when a twin-engine Cessna 401 crashed Friday afternoon northwest of Chanute. Three died at the scene, and a fourth, who Luce said helped his daughter walk from the wreckage to a nearby road, died early Saturday morning at a hospital in Wichita.

All five were on their way from Tulsa, Okla., to an Acquire the Fire rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was the last of 33 such events this year held across the U.S. by Teen Mania Ministries, which Luce said he created 25 years ago to reach out to troubled youths. The ministry is based in Garden Valley, Texas, where the Luce family lives.

“There could be no prouder parents than the parents of the four remarkable young men who were killed,” Luce said.

The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims as pilot Luke Sheets, 23, of Ephraim, Wis.; Austin Anderson, 27, of Ringwood, Okla.; Garrett Coble, 29, of Tulsa, Okla.; and Stephen Luth, 22, of Muscatine, Iowa.

Anderson, a former Marine who had served two tours of duty in Iraq before going to Oral Roberts University, and Luth had recently been hired to the Teen Mania marketing staff.

Luce said Anderson, who suffered burns over 90 percent of his body, was next to Hannah Luce when she asked the woman to make the call. Anderson was taken to a Wichita hospital, where he died around 5 a.m. Saturday.

Luce said he asked his daughter about reports that Anderson had pulled her from the wreckage, but “she just began to tear up” and didn’t respond.

“I know Austin, he’s that kind of guy,” Luce said. “He served two tours in Iraq, and he was willing to give his life for his country. He was willing to give his life for a friend. He was always willing to go that extra mile.”

Hannah Luce graduated from Oral Roberts last year with a theology degree and was working on her master’s degree in counseling psychology at Oklahoma State University, Luce said. She was scheduled to start undergoing skin grafts Monday, he said, and was expected to remain in the Kansas City, Kan., hospital for two to three weeks.

Coble, a professor at Northeastern State University in Broken Arrow, Okla., was a longtime friend of Teen Mania and had served with the group on 15 mission trips, Luce said.

Sheets, who was flying the plane, was the son of a former Air Force pilot who now flies commercial jets.

“He had flown with his dad all of his life,” Luce said. “He had been trained and checked out on this plane. He had flown this plane a number of times, and was very well-versed on it.”

He said 130,000 to 140,000 youths each year attend Acquire the Fire rallies across the country, and more than 3 million had participated in Teen Mania events since its inception.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Father of Kansas plane crash survivor speaks