LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (BP)–The pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lenoir City, Tenn. was killed on New Year’s Eve when he lost his balance, tumbled off a rocky, 200-foot cliff and fell into Fort Loudoun Lake.
Doug Alexander, 49, was camping with his three sons when the accident occurred, according to rescue officials. He was the senior pastor of the 2,200 member Southern Baptist church located south of Knoxville, Tenn.
Authorities said Alexander and his sons were camping around midnight on Bluff Point, a rocky outcropping high above the lake. They had just built a fire and Alexander was sitting on a campstool. The pastor apparently lost his balance and fell backwards over the cliff.
His sons, Mark, 20, Stephen, 19; and John, 17, ran to a nearby subdivision for help, according to Dick DeMerchant, associate pastor at First, Lenoir City.
It took search and rescue teams more than 16 hours to find Alexander’s body. Divers finally found the pastor about ten feet from the shoreline in 15 feet of water. Initial reports indicated Alexander drowned. “We were hoping we would find something on the bluff and we prayed and it just didn’t work out,” said Capt. Jeff Weaver, who directed the search.
While the search was ongoing, church members gathered at the campsite throughout the day to pray. “We wanted him found,” said Chris Wampler, a deacon at the church.
Wampler said the pastor was an active outdoorsman and had previously camped on the bluff. “He just liked doing things with his kids,” DeMerchant told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
DeMerchant said the church was stunned by the tragedy. Many members went to the home Alexander shared with his wife, Karen, and their sons.
Instead of a funeral, the church held a praise and worship service on Jan. 2 for their pastor. More than 1,300 people attended the service and a spokesperson for the church said it was a beautiful, moving experience.
Alexander, a native of Texas, had been the minister at First Baptist since 1995. He had previously pastored at Sharon Woods Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio and was associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ark.
He was a graduate of Hardin-Simmons University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.