In a message to a Wichita church Thursday night, California pastor Ed Dufresne talked about having faith and not fear. It would be his final message on this Earth.
Friday morning, he and his longtime pilot, Mitchell Morgan, took off from Mid-Continent Airport on the way to deliver another message at a church in Texas.
Less than 20 minutes after takeoff, shortly after 10:15 a.m., their business jet crashed in a field in southeast Sedgwick County, near 95th Street South and Webb, authorities said.
Dufresne, 72, pastor at World Harvest Church in Murrieta, Calif., and Morgan, 49, also of Murrieta, died in the crash, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said. They were the only ones on the plane.
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Their deaths left at least two Kansas churches where Dufresne visited this week in shock.
“He had so much joy (Thursday night),” said Jeanette Burlie, an associate pastor at Triumphant Faith Center on South Seneca, where Dufresne spoke. “His message was very timely.”
It was based on a passage in the Bible from Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
“He talked about a troubled heart is not a believing heart and we cannot fear,” Burlie said. “If you are in ministry, you have to love people, and he loved people. He was a man of faith.”
Dufresne led an organization that mentored to pastors around the world, traveling more than 11 million air miles in his career, according to his church’s website. Burlie was among those and so was Jim Ames, a pastor at Abundant Life Family Church in Dodge City.
Dufresne spoke at Ames’ church on Wednesday night.
“This is such a shock,” Ames said. “He was just here, and then to hear this.”
Dufresne’s wife, Nancy, who also is a pastor at World Harvest, was not with him on the visits to Kansas. She was scheduled to join him next week in Texas, according to the itinerary on his website.
Dufresne had just returned from preaching in Brazil and Russia, Ames said.
“We’ve known him for more than 30 years,” Ames said, “but in the last 15 we’ve come to a much closer relationship. He was very much a mentor to us. He took us under his wing. He was a father figure.”
Joe Aguirre, mayor of Delano, Calif., said in an e-mail that Dufresne “was a friend of our city and Christian community, and he will be greatly missed. He demonstrated to me how to be a God-fearing leader in our city.”
Dufresne was scheduled to speak Friday night at Word and Spirit Church in Schertz, Texas, near San Antonio.
The 1975 Cessna Citation, which was registered to Dufresne Inc., according to the Federal Aviation Administration, left Mid-Continent Airport at 9:59 a.m. It was flying at an altitude of 16,500 feet before disappearing off the radar screen at 10:17 a.m., Easter said.
Witnesses on the ground reported hearing an explosion in the air and seeing the plane hitting the ground at 10:18 a.m., he added.
A 911 caller reported seeing a plane go straight into the ground, followed by black smoke. Other witnesses saw pieces falling off the plane as it came down, Easter said, and there was a small fire after the crash.
The plane crashed a quarter-mile north of 95th between Webb and Greenwich, just east of a cemetery, and left a debris field with a radius of up to 1 1/2 miles, Easter said.
“The plane is completely destroyed,” Easter said during a briefing shortly after the crash.
Easter said authorities weren’t aware of a distress call by the pilot before the crash.
The plane was scheduled to land shortly before noon at a suburban airport near San Antonio, according to a flight plan filed with the FAA.
Because it was a fatal crash, the National Transportation Safety Board will join the FAA in the investigation to determine the cause, authorities said.
Webb between 87th and 95th and 95th between Webb and Greenwich were to remain closed overnight Friday. Authorities planned to resume scouring the area for pieces of the plane on Saturday, Easter said.