Family members of the former marine who died after pulling his friend out of the burning plane last week say that he was a hero even before the crash.
“This guy was just the type that would do anything for anyone at any time,” said Cody Anderson, Austin Anderson’s uncle. “He was raised to put others first. … Austin doesn’t need this story to be a hero.”
Austin Anderson, 27, Hannah Luce, 22, and four other Teen Mania Ministries staff members were traveling to a Teen Mania event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, when their plane, a twin-engine 401 Cessna, crashed outside Chanute, Kan., about 120 miles southwest of Kansas City.
Luke Sheets, 27, of Ringwood Okla.; Garrett Coble, 29, of Tulsa, Okla.; and Stephen Luth, 22, of Muscatine, Iowa; died at the scene, officials said.
Anderson pulled Ms. Luce from the plane and walked with her to get help at a nearby roadway, despite suffering burns on 90 percent of his body. He later died in the nearby hospital in Kansas.
Ms. Luce is the daughter of Ron Luce, president and founder of Teen Mania Ministries in Lindale.
“The fact that Hannah is here with us is a miracle, and while I am overjoyed and so thankful to God that she’s here, I am also deeply saddened at the loss of Austin, Stephen, Garrett and Luke,” Luce wrote on his blog, which he and his family have been posting to regularly with updates. “What has struck me so much, and humbled me more than you can imagine, is that every time I speak with these families, they are eager to hear how Hannah is doing. They cry and rejoice when I tell them that she is doing well and is expected to recover. Talking with the Andersons, the Luths, the Cobles and the Sheets these past few days has been a tremendous blessing for me.”
Ms. Luce suffered burns on nearly 30 percent of her body on her hands, back and legs, according to Teen Mania officials.
“Hannah is in a lot of pain,” Luce wrote on the blog. “The medication can only do so much. She and our family are finding our greatest strength through your prayers. We are humbled and grateful to know that you are lifting our family up in prayer, and we can sense the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, helping Hannah heal.”
Ms. Luce attended Lindale High School and graduated from Oral Roberts University in 2011. She earned degrees in church history and historical theology. She has been working for her father’s ministry, Teen Mania, since January and was planning to return to school to earn a graduate degree in counseling psychology, according to a written release from Teen Mania.
“Hannah has been a part of the Teen Mania family since birth, traveling on mission trips and to ‘Acquire the Fire’ rallies since she was young girl. Ministry is a large part of her life, and she adores helping other people,” said Cindy Mallette, communications director at Teen Mania Ministries.
While the Anderson family is “heartbroken” about the loss of Austin, they’re proud of his legacy of character, bravery and everything he accomplished, his uncle said. He graduated from Oral Roberts the week before the crash and had just begun his “dream job” at “a ministry that was impacting the world,” he said.
“Austin was always working to see how he could provide and help. He was determined to make every moment count, like his dad was (who was a pastor and died in a car wreck when Austin was 15),” his uncle said. “We’ll miss him, we’re heartbroken, but everything he’d wanted to accomplish, he’d done it. That’s why we’re celebrating.”