Vernon Parish Plane Crash - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Vernon Parish Plane Crash

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VERNON PARISH, La. - The latest on a small plane crash near Simpson.

By Monday afternoon, Pastor Bruce Maxwell knew something was wrong with his life-long friend and co-worker James Roberts.

Pastor Bruce Maxwell, Bentley United Pentecostal Church: "We didn't know where he was, where the plane was. We were all on the edge of our seats."

On Sunday evening, Roberts, an experienced pilot, had boarded a single-engine Cessna 172 from Buhlow airport headed to Texas. On Monday afternoon, the plane and Roberts' body were found in a wooded area near Simpson.

Maxwell: "It was just very heart-rending whenever we did find out."

Vernon Parish sheriff's deputies were the first ones to arrive at the scene.

Sheriff Sam Craft, VPSO: "When Fort Polk aviation called us, they said they had two helicopters in the air, and they thought they had located the scene of the crash. So we responded to that area. We maintained contact with the Fort Polk authorities, and they had been in the air, for how long, I'm unsure."

When emergency crews arrived, James Roberts was already dead. And, those who know him say, he will be greatly missed.

Maxwell: "If you met James, you loved him. He was a friend to everybody. Never met a stranger."

Roberts grew up in Bentley, and was active at Bentley United Pentecostal Church as a pastor's assistant, adult Sunday school teacher, former youth minister, and drummer in the Sunday band.

Maxwell: "He was a utility guy. He could do pretty much anything I needed him to do. It's going to be a great loss to us."

He is survived by his wife, along with a son and a daughter who both attend Northwestern State University.

Maxwell: "His family is holding up well. It is very devastating to his wife, but they're hanging in there."

Pastor Maxwell says he doesn't know what happened in the sky that stormy night, but does know, he'll miss his friend.

Maxwell: "It started out as a hobby that he loved. James was always there and would fly me. I'd go anywhere with James."

The Federal Aviation Administration is heading up the ongoing investigation.

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