I could not believe I was googling this, but I had to know. As my thoughts screamed that it could not be, one thought said clearly to me, “But, he is with Jesus.” “Yes, he is,” I said softly. Then louder I said, “Maybe he wasn’t the pilot.” By now, I had typed, ‘Luke Sheets killed in plane crash’. It was an oxymoron — Luke was a meticulous pilot, responsible, thorough, intelligent. Of all people, this couldn’t happen to Luke. My voice shook as I saw the news articles line up with the words ‘Luke Sheets, pilot, killed in plane crash’, and told my husband who was now reading over my shoulder, “Luke wasn’t the only one. Two others died, and two are in serious condition.” We were stunned.
Just the week before he had graduated from Oral Roberts University. The last time we saw him at church, he helped me get my Packer widget on my phone front page, and I had just been wondering if he’d be home much this summer to use my jet ski. For a few years, Luke and his brother, Blake, shared the use of my jet ski and would summerize, winterize, and troubleshoot it for me. Luke was our friend, part of the family — a feeling that many in our church had. Luke had also taken my husband and me up in his plane last August for our first flight over Door County — it was amazing. His potential was amazing, and it seemed so wrong that he was gone. “Of all the young people I have ever known,” said my husband, Lee, “Luke impressed me the most.” As I continued to read, I saw that everyone on that Cessna 401 was quite amazing, too, and all graduates of ORU. They were on their way to Iowa from Tulsa to an Acquire the Fire Conference.
It was true that Luke was gone, even though everything within me screamed that it could not be. So began the conversations with others to inform them, cry with them, pray for Luke’s family, and begin to accept that this had happened. I stopped at the house to see Blake, Luke’s brother, who was home alone and had been the one informed by the police the night before. He then had to inform his parents who were traveling in ministry. They were on their way home and other family were on their way to be with Blake from the next town. It had not yet sunk in and he knew that it would only get harder. We hugged and talked about Luke.
It wasn’t known yet what had happened, but within a few days, the one survivor was able to shed light that the heater had malfunctioned and toxic fumes filled the cockpit, making it difficult to breath and see. Luke made an amazing emergency descent into a field in Kansas and landed well. As they were traversing the field trying to slow down, a wing tip touched the ground, sending the plane into a spin. The fuselage struck a tree and burst into flame. Luke’s roommate, a former marine, got Hannah Luce out of the plane and got both of them to a road to get help. That brave young man had more than ninety percent of his body covered with burns and passed away the next morning. Hannah had 28 percent burns and is undergoing skin grafts and recovering, surrounded by a great deal of prayer and love. She had no internal injuries or lacerations, another testament to how well Luke landed the plane in dire circumstances. It was said at his funeral that most pilots with 30 years of experience could not have done what Luke did.
The prayer is that the harvest of these four young men will be a hundred times more than it would have been had they lived. We know they all received a heroes welcome in heaven, and we know they are worshipping at the throne of the Lamb, and that they are having a blast. I had a little picture of Luke and Jesus sliding down a snowcovered mountain just laughing and laughing.
That Saturday of hearing the news, several of us got together for prayer in the evening as we often do on Saturday night and we talked and cried and prayed. After a while, I finally fully entered into worship as we sang, and while in that place, I felt that Luke just leaned out over the ‘wall’ of heaven, looked down at me and said, “Good girl”. My young friend being my advisor. I often think of Luke and what he is doing in heaven, playing and worshipping, and know that I will see him again. I also think of not seeing Luke again here on earth, of not calling him when my jet ski is available or not working right, of not seeing his smiling face with his parents at church, and that is painful. I pray for his parents, brother, and extended family. I pray for Hannah that she will recover well and declare the works of the Lord.
Luke Sheets was a good friend to so many. We so miss him. And, we will so see him again in heaven.