Normangee, TX Private Plane Crash, Nov 1982
CONTROVERSIAL EVANGELIST ROLOFF DIES IN PLANE CRASH.
Normangee (AP) -- A single-engine airplane piloted by controversial evangelist LESTER ROLOFF crashed into a pasture Tuesday, killing ROLOFF and all four passengers in the craft, officials said.
The crash was three miles north of Normangee, which is about 110 miles north of Houston. A spokesman for the Madison County sheriff's office said the aircraft did not burn.
The dead were identified as ROLOFF, 68, ELAINE WINGERT, 30, SUSAN LYNN SMITH, 28, CHERYL PALMER, 24, and ENOLA SLADE, 25, all of Corpus Christi, said Sam Saxon of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
MS. WINGERT was a friend of ROLOFF'S and the others worked at Roloff's Jubilee Home for Ladies, said Jubilee Superintendent Doug Haddock.
ROLOFF was involved in an eight-year battle with the state of Texas over licensing of his homes for wayward youths. ROLOFF saw the battle as a fight over the separation of church and state, and he called the struggle "the Christian Alamo."
A state district judge finally allowed ROLOFF to operate his Rebekah Home for Girls and Anchor Home for Boys without licenses.
Some youths at the homes claimed they were held against their will and were harshly punished for not following ROLOFF'S religious teachings. But others -- including the judge presiding over the licensing battle -- praised the homes for steering young drug-users away from crime.
On Tuesday, ROLOFF had taken off in his Cessna 210 about 8:30 a.m. with four other people to go to Kansas City to preach at a service at Calvary Baptist Church in Roosterville, Mo., Tuesday night, said Dave Walkden, communications director for ROLOFF Evangelistic Enterprises.
A Leon County sheriff's deputy said the wings and tail of the Cessna 210 landed in one pasture and the fuselage fell about a mile away in another field. The deputy asked that he not be identified by name.
The Federal Aviation Administration reported "very severe storms in that area" at the time of the crash, said FAA spokesman George Burlange in Fort Worth.
The plane had been at 19,000 feet, and the storms extended up to 34,000 feet, Burlage said.
"High turbulence will tear the wings off an airplane.
You don't just fly into a thunderstorm because of the tremendous force there," he said.
The plane disappeared from radar at 10:18 a.m. with no indication of trouble beforehand, he said.
"He just disappeared. This indicates to me that he hit something he didn't expect to hit," he said.
Burlage said the wreckage of the plane owned by the Roloff organization was discovered about an hour later.
A comparison of the wreckage site and the spot the plane was last seen on radar indicates the plane fell "almost straight down. This means he was out of control because even with a disabled craft you can usually glide around a bit," Burlage said.
Haddock said MS. WINGERT was a friend of Roloff's who lived in her own home on the Roloff organization complex, which includes residences for troubled people. The other three women had been residents at the Jubilee Home and stayed to work with other residents, he said.
He said MS. SMITH, originally from Omaha, Neb., was a high school teacher at the home; MS. SLADE, originally from Durango, Colo., was a counselor; and MS. PALMER, originally from Massilion, Ohio, was a missionary to Apache Indians in Arizona and was back at the home temporarily.
R. L. Lamb, who lives on a farm near the crash site, said he was in his garden between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. when he heard a loud noise overhead.
"It sounded like a clap of thunder or a big cannon shooting off," Lamb said, adding that he saw nothing unusual when he looked up.
The plane that crashed Tuesday -- a propeller-driven craft painted tan and blue with gray trim -- was the plane Roloff flew frequently to travel around the country, said Walkden, the communications director for Roloff's organization. He said Roloff had been a pilot for 25 years.
"He flies himself all over the country. He does this nearly every day. He's got more hours than a lot of military pilots," Walkden said.
Galveston Daily News Texas 1982-11-03