Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
EL PASO – A National Transportation Safety Board investigator arrived at the site Monday where a small plane crashed near the Hatch airport, killing four people on board.
The crash killed Kanequa Chancellor, 41; Anthony Deramus, 57; Christopher Howell, 33; and Malcolm Watkins, 25.
The three passengers and pilot were all members of the Destiny Family Christian Center in El Paso.
“We loved these people. We were totally like family,” said Adele Johnson, a co-pastor and co-founder of the El Paso church.
She said the group had flown to Hatch on Saturday to celebrate Chancellor’s birthday.
“She loved green chile,” Johnson said. The passengers spent Saturday in the village sightseeing and had lunch at Sparky’s, a restaurant known for its green chile cheeseburgers.
When they did not return as expected Saturday evening, they were reported missing. Johnson had baked a red velvet birthday cake for Chancellor and texted she’d bring the cake to Sunday services but did not get a response.
New Mexico State Police officers found the single engine Cessna aircraft Sunday evening at 5:30, about 330 yards northwest of the Hatch airport. They did not identify the pilot.
The cause of the crash is unknown.
“The community, of course, feels bad about something like this. What a tragic thing for the family,” said Patrick Banegas, Hatch village clerk.
He said two or three flights arrive every weekend with visitors.
Chancellor had posted a video on Facebook of the group of friends on their flight from El Paso to Hatch. She worked as a student career coordinator in the Clint Independent School District.
“The Clint ISD family is heartbroken over the loss of one of our own. Kanequa Chancellor was a dedicated educator who made an impact on our students,” district officials said in a statement.
Chancellor moved from Dallas in the 1990s after earning a basketball scholarship at the University of Texas at El Paso. She was active with her alma mater raising funds to help military students attending UTEP.
Johnson said Chancellor was a youth pastor at her church and a week ago had ministered at a church in Las Cruces.
“We lost a pillar in our community as well as a peer of our church, what I consider a real hero of faith,” Johnson said.
The other people on the plane were also beloved by the church. Deramus served as a deacon for two decades. Howell was a deacon and often worked with youths. Watkins, 25, was also active in the church.
Destiny Christian Center scheduled a vigil Monday night with counselors available for “church family” members.
“We’re all in shock,” Johnson said.