EL PASO, Texas - Members of Destiny Family Christian Center in El Paso are devastated after a plane crash near Hatch, New Mexico claimed the lives of four beloved members, including three pastors.
Anthony Deramus, Christopher Howell, Kanequa Chancellor and Malcolm Watkins were killed after the aircraft they were in went down, approximately 300 meters northwest of the Hatch airport.
New Mexico State Police told ABC-7 investigators responded to the downed aircraft at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. All four people inside were pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
According to Adele Johnson, co-pastor at Destiny Family Christian Center, all four people inside were active and long-time members of the church.
Johnson said Chancellor was a young adult pastor and a member of the church for decades. She said she came to El Paso on a scholarship for UTEP basketball's team.
"A pillar in our community, and we are really devastated," Johnson said.
Johnson said Howell was also a minister at the church, and Deramus, the pilot, was a deacon. She said Watkins was Chancellor's cousin and lived with her.
"She was giving him a new lease on life," Johnson said. "All of them were very generous very active members, not just in our church but in the community."
Johnson said the four were taking a plane ride to Hatch to celebrate Chancellor's 41's birthday.
"Their plan was to have dinner in Hatch and come right back and be in service Sunday morning," Johnson said. "She'd asked me to make her a cake for her birthday. Her favorite red velvet. I brought it to church and texted her, 'the cake is in my office' and never got a response. I texted her 'are you here?', and never got a response. Then learned subsequently that they were missing."
Johnson said the crash happened between 5 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, around the time they were set to be leaving Hatch and going back to El Paso. She said they were told a distress signal was sent out at around that same time Saturday. She is still unsure why it took so long to find them.