Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Muldoon Church Mourns Five Killed In Birchwood Plane Crash
Pilot, mother, 3 children were en route to Seldovia
ANCHORAGE—Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are trying to figure out exactly what happened Friday morning before a plane crashed at Birchwood Airport, killing all five people on board.
Lonn Greiner planned to take his mother and some of his kids to Seldovia Friday morning. On board his Cessna 180 were Greiner's 69-year-old mother, Carolyn, his 13-year-old daughter Glory, his 12-year-old son Nathan and 11-year-old daughter Grace.
“Just about six hours ago, they were calling and saying, 'Hey, we're getting ready to take off,” said Muldoon Community Assembly Pastor Kent Redfearn Friday afternoon. The Greiners have been attending the Muldoon church for nearly two decades.
Minutes later, though, emergency responders say the Cessna crashed on nearby railroad tracks, instantly killing everyone on board.
“He is a certified airplane mechanic,” Redfearn said of Lonn Greiner. “He's a pilot, he's very schooled and trained, so without a doubt, to the very last second of his capacity, he was thinking: How do I fix this situation? What is the next prudent thing to do? Having been to the crash site, it would seem to me that that was just a few seconds, that Lonn only had a few moments to realize something had gone terribly wrong on this takeoff.”
Friends and family members of the Greiner family are in shock, and reeling from the sudden loss. It's a loss that has now turned a vibrant family of six into a mourning family of two.
That loss is reverberating at Muldoon Community Assembly, where the pastor says the entire Greiner family played a crucial role in the church mission.
“They are key to the fabric of what we do,” said Redfearn. “It has been said that it's not the duration of your life, but the donation of your life that matters. I thought of the great donation of Nathan, Grace, Glory and Lonn to people literally around the world. In fact, some of the children just returned home from a mission trip. Lonn's been a big part of what we do in Russia, in Burkina Faso, West Africa.”
Rep. Lance Pruitt knows the Greiners through church and aviation. Pruitt says Lonn Greiner, 46, had a lot of experience.
“He was kind of a, I guess you can say, a gentle giant,” Greiner said. “He was very quiet most of the time. He was a big, husky guy. You never felt threatened by the guy in any way. When he would talk, he was very witty, all around a nice guy.”
Struggling now to make sense of the sudden loss are Greiner’s sister, father, wife and eldest son, Redfearn said.
“They've lost already a big part of their family, a big part of their heart died today,” Redfearn said Friday afternoon. “In a sense, everything about three little kids, grandma and dad dying in a plane crash makes no sense whatsoever.”
The Muldoon church is part of the larger Assembly of God denomination, which suffered another sudden loss about three weeks ago, when the long-time pastor of Matanuska Assembly of God and his wife, Randall and Doris Bjerken, were struck by a vehicle and killed in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Mother’s Day.
Redfearn says if there is something to be learned from either or both tragedies, it’s to cherish the living.
“Tonight when you go to bed, hug your loved one just a little extra, tell your family you love them, because it really can change in the twinkling of an eye,” he said.