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Plane crashes near NC church before Sunday worship services

OAK ISLAND, N.C. (BP) – A plane crash near the entrance to Beach Road Baptist Church early Sunday morning didn’t stop the church from holding both of its regularly scheduled worship services.

According to multiple media reports, the pilot of a single-engine plane was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off from Cape Fear Regional Jetport near Oak Island in Brunswick County along the North Carolina coast.

Investigators said the pilot reported engine trouble shortly after takeoff at approximately 8 a.m. and attempted to land the plane in an open field between the entrance to the church and a local hardware store. The church is less than two miles away from the jetport. 

According to reports, the pilot managed to land the plane safely, but the left wing clipped a tree during the landing, which spun the plane around before it came to rest near the church’s welcome and information sign.

The pilot was taken to an area hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to reports.

Later in the day, Woody Walls, associate pastor for discipleship at Beach Road Baptist Church, posted about the incident on social media along with a picture of the plane resting beside the church’s welcome sign.

“Interesting start to the morning as a small plane crashed at the entrance to the church,” Walls wrote on X, the platform formerly known at Twitter. “Pilot had minor injuries. Threw a wrench in our operations, but we managed to get both services in and on time.”

Beach Road Baptist Church holds two Sunday morning worship services, which start at 9 and 10:45 a.m., respectively.

Walls said he and several other staff and volunteers were already at the church preparing for the day’s worship services when the crash occurred. Walls said he was outside visiting with volunteers who were setting up a check-in tent for first-time guests when they heard the crash.

“We heard a loud noise, and we first thought it was a vehicle accident out on the main road in front of the church,” said Walls, who immediately called 911.

As Walls and other volunteers made their way to the scene, they saw the plane resting near the church sign. Walls said several volunteers from the church helped get the pilot out of the cockpit and away from the crash site until emergency crews arrived a short while later.

The N.C. Highway Patrol, the Southport Fire Department and other Oak Island emergency personnel responded to the incident, according to reports. The crash is also being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Once church leaders knew the pilot was OK, Walls said they turned their attention to adjusting the logistics involved with the day’s worship services and assisting the approximately 300 people who would soon be showing up to the church for the first service.

Church volunteers assisted with redirecting traffic for local residents and those attending the church’s 9 a.m. worship service. By the time the church’s second service concluded a little after noon, the plane and associated debris had been removed.

“We were grateful no one was hurt,” Walls said. “The pilot did a great job to bring the plane down and avoid people. The Lord certainly spared everyone. No one was injured and there was no damage to property, other than the plane. My understanding is the pilot had some minor injuries and was expected to do well.”

Walls also praised church members who weren’t assigned to serve on Sunday, but stepped in to volunteer wherever was needed as word of the incident spread. 

“It’s always a blessing to see people step up, step in and serve.” Walls said.

Sunday’s incident was the second plane crash near Beach Road Baptist Church in less than four months. 

On the afternoon of Sunday, June 25, a small plane crashed in a neighborhood behind the church. During that incident, the pilot also reported trouble shortly after taking off from Cape Fear Regional Jetport.

The plane struck the side of a home and was in flames when first responders arrived. The pilot, who was the only person on the plane, died in the crash. No other injuries were reported.

This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder.