News Story

Tragic Plane Crash Impacts the ORU Family

This was truly a sad weekend for the ORU family as we struggled through aftermath of the plane accident on Friday, May 11 involving four ORU graduates and a former ORU instructor. The following are the details of this tragedy pulled from ORU, the Tulsa World, the Associated Press and Teen Mania.

On Friday afternoon, a small plane carrying five passengers crashed in rural southeastern Kansas en route to an Acquire The Fire event. The plane, piloted by Luke Sheets who was a licensed pilot, took off from Jones Riverside Airport (in Jenks, Okla) around 3:45 p.m. and was bound for Council Bluffs, Iowa, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the twin-engine Cessna 401 went down around 4:30 p.m. Friday northwest of Chanute, Kan. The plane skidded about 200 feet before impacting a tree line, according to a report. A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the plane was in contact with air traffic control, which authorized a descent. However, contact was lost shortly afterward. He added that there was a post-crash fire and an investigation is ongoing.

Three of the five on board died at the scene. The three that went to be with the Lord on Friday were:

Garrett Coble, 29 from Tulsa, a former marketing instructor in the ORU College of Business and an associate alumnus of ORU.

Stephen Luth, 22 from Muscatine, Iowa, a 2012 graduate who majored in Business Administration.

Luke Sheets, 23 from Ephraim, Wis., a 2012 graduate who majored in Media with a concentration in advertising.

Hannah Luce and Austin Anderson, a Marine who had served two tours of duty in Iraq, were able to escape from the burning plane and walk to a nearby roadway to get help.

However, both Hannah and Austin suffered severe injuries and were life-flighted to hospitals in Kansas City and Wichita, respectively. Hannah was listed in serious but stable condition, suffering primarily from burns on 28% of her body. Austin’s burn injuries were far more severe, especially those sustained to his lungs and at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Austin went to be with the Lord.

In a post from Ron Luce, an ORU Trustee and founder of Teen Mania Ministries, and his wife Katie; “We believe he (Austin) helped Hannah out of the plane and to the roadside. Not only is he a hero for serving our nation, we probably owe our daughter’s life to his courage and strength.”

Austin, 27 from Ringwood, Okla., a 2012 graduate who majored in Business Administration.

Hannah, 22 from Garden Valley, Texas, is a 2011 graduate who majored in Theological and Historical Studies with concentration in theology and church history.

Hannah is recovering well at a hospital in Kansas City. Sunday morning, the doctors took her off the ventilator and she is breathing on her own. They have removed the tube from her throat so that she will be able to speak. She is growing stronger, more coherent and is asking questions. The soot in her lungs has been suctioned out and is healing up. The doctors report the damage will not be long term.

Ron and Katie Luce said “It is truly a miracle that she is alive. She will be beginning skin graft surgeries right away for the third degree burns she sustained on the back of her hands and her lower left leg.”

All of the individuals on the plane were friends of Teen Mania, and two of them, Austin and Stephen, were newly hired to Teen Mania’s marketing team.

The memorial service for Austin Anderson will be held on Wednesday, May 16 at 2 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 2505 West Owen K Garriott Road in Enid, Oklahoma.

The memorial service for Garrett Coble will be held on Thursday, May 17 at 2 p.m. in Christ’s Chapel on ORU’s campus.  In lieu of flowers, people can give on behalf of Garrett Coble to the Orphanage El Nino' Emanuel Peru through ORU.

The funeral service for Stephen Luth will be held on Friday, May 18 at 10:30 a.m. at Ralph J. Wittich Riley Freers Funeral Home, 1931 Houser Street in Muscatine, Iowa. 

The funeral service for Luke Sheets will be held on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, 836 Michigan Street in Sturgeons Bay, Wisconsin. In lieu of flowers, people can give on behalf of Luke Sheets to ORU Missions. Click here to give. Put "In Memory of Luke Sheets" in the "on behalf of" box.

ORU will host a time to remember the victims of this accident in the Fall after the full student body returns to campus.

Please continue to pray for the families and friends of those who lost loved ones. Pray for continued healing for Hannah Luce and peace for the ORU community as we reflect on this great tragedy.

Please check this page for updated information.