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New Mexico plane crash kills four people, two originally from Marshall

By Robin Y. Richardson
March 3, 2013 at 3:11 p.m.

A single-engine Mooney aircraft carrying members of the Verhalen family, originally from Marshall, crashed Sunday afternoon shortly after takeoff from the airport in Angel Fire, N.M. There were no survivors

"Winds at the time of the crash were strong and gusty," said Lynn Lunsford, spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Investigators will determine whether this played a role in the accident," he said.

The State of New Mexico Department of Public Safety identified the passengers as 33-year-old John Phillip Verhalen III, the pilot; his sister, 41-year-old Sara Verhalen; Sara's daughter, 13-year-old Chloe Marie Jameson; and 26-year-old Jennifer Woodward; girlfriend of the pilot.

St. Joseph Catholic Church will host a prayer service at 6 p.m. tonight at the church to support the family, who are parishioners there.

"They are such a generous, God-fearing family," said Father Denzil Vithanage, pastor of the church. "They were so united."

Vithanage said the passengers of the plane were in New Mexico for a skiing trip. He believes they were heading back to Texas when the plane crashed.

"Our parish is really going through a lot," said Vithanage, sharing they've had three funerals alone this week. Last year, they lost five young parishioners in a car crash. And now, they've lost members of the Verhalen family.

"(It's like) Lord, what are you telling us now?" said Vithanage. "But, I know everything is (for) a reason.

"We feel the presence of the Lord in this tragic event," said Vithanage. "We know the Lord's with us."

The plane carrying the four passengers was registered in Scottsville to Verhalen Flyers LLC.

Lunsford said FAA investigators were on their way to the crash site to investigate. The National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of the investigation, he said.

Vithanage said John and Sara Verhalen were formerly of Marshall. John was living in San Antonio and Sara resided in Dallas.



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