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4 crash victims were on Ivan aid mission

Published Aug. 28, 2005

Four people who died when a small plane crashed were on a mission to photograph damage from Hurricane Ivan to identify areas that might need help from a church group.

Travis Neff, Cristy King and father and son Bill Walther and Daniel Wesley, all members of Pace Assembly of God, died in Thursday's crash of their single-engine Cessna shortly after takeoff from Peter Prince Field in Milton. Their ages were not immediately available.

"This is absolutely the hardest thing I've ever had to face," said the Rev. Glen Lowery, the church's pastor, who was supposed to be on the plane but stayed behind because he had to meet with an insurance adjuster.

"Daniel took my place," he said.

Walther had given up a high-paying job to work full time for the church, bringing disadvantaged children there for activities. His wife is Lowery's secretary.

The church served as a shelter during the storm and its aftermath, housing as many as 600 people, including 140 members of the Florida National Guard.

"These people that were on the plane had helped cook for them," Lowery said.

Family members of the victims were at the church handing out supplies when they learned of the crash.

Sue Helms was at home two doors from the crash site when she heard an explosion and saw flames and smoke billowing into the sky. She ran to the scene.

"There was nothing to be done," she said.

Santa Rosa County sheriff's deputies said it appeared the plane hit nose-first.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.