Family And Friends Remember Three East Texans Killed In Crash - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

1/4/06-New Summerfield

Family And Friends Remember Three East Texans Killed In Crash

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board say a Cessna 172H was being piloted by 25 year old youth pastor Michael Smith of New Summerfield Baptist Church and two members of his youth group, 14 year old John Gartman and 16 year old Robert Loughmiller.

Thursday, the NTSB finished its site recovery and is moving the evidence to a secure location in Dallas. Though they say it is still very early in the investigation, they have ruled out engine trouble as a reason for the crash, and are looking at weather conditions as a possible cause.

KLTV 7's spoke with family members of one of those killed, and the pastor at First Baptist.

Brother Donny Sadler of First Baptist Church in New Summerfield says his friend and fellow pastor Michael Smith born to work with kids.

"Michael was a mentor. He had, in life, made some poor decisions as we all do.  He really wanted to teach young people before they hit that age, that they have choices, and how to make good choices.  He really just mentored all of these boys," says Sadler.

When the small plane crashed over the King Ranch on Tuesday night, he was returning from Mexico. Family members of the one of the victims says Smith had gone to have dental work done because it is cheaper there. The two teenager's had flown with Smith before and wanted to go along for the trip.

Saddler says it's just another example of how Smith reached out to the kids.

Robert Loughmiller's older brother, Leonard, says he had flown with Smith many times before.

"We took off and as soon as we did, you could see all of East Texas and everything. It's just a feeling like you never felt before.  I can understand why Robert and John, why they would want to go, because it's just great," says Leonard.

Leonard says he will miss his brother's happiness the most.

"You can ask anybody. He was always laughing. He had to have been sad sometimes, but he never showed it. I will just remember him smiling and coming in there and singing with me, because I play guitar.  He loved to sing," says Leonard.

News of the crash devastated those who knew the victims. They say they will need each other now more than ever.

Records obtained by KLTV show that Smith's private pilot's license was up to date, and he had a perfectly clean record with the FAA.

Thursday night, First Baptist Church in New Summerfield is opening it's doors for 24 hours for friends and family to gather and remember the three. They invite anyone from the community to come in for prayer.

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting:


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