CARTERVILLE — As family and friends prepare to say their final goodbyes this week to Pat and Bill Searcy — the Carterville couple who died in last week’s plane crash in West Virginia — Sister Phyllis Schenk, OP, said all are coming together to support one another.
“I think we surround one another and we are supportive of one another knowing we are all grieving,” Schenk said, adding that “we walk forward together.”
She has been assigned to the Searcy’s church, Carterville’s Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit, for just two weeks, but Schenk said she knows the community is very close and has taken the loss hard.
“This is a very close-knit community and it has been very difficult,” she said.
In her experience, she said mourning has no set time for everyone. “I know it takes as long as it takes. There is no limit,” Schenk said.
In their grieving, Schenk said community members have reached out to one another and shared their memories of the Searcys, remembering the inspiring details of the couple’s lives.
On Sept. 5, the small, single-engine Cirrus SR20 went off of radar in West Virginia — Gary Schaefer, manager of Southern Illinois Airport in Carbondale, said the plane originated from his airport but had actually taken off from Delaware.
Local authorities were notified that a plane had gone missing near the Wetzel and Harrison county line — a dense wooded area. Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny said the area was searched both on the ground as well as from the air.
Deputy Chief Jim Copenhaver with the Harrison County Sheriff's Department said that at about 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7, he was notified that the plane was located in Wetzel County by a search and rescue team. He said he had no information about the occupants of the aircraft.
Locally, word had already circulated that the pilot and passenger were Bill and and Pat Searcy as early as the evening of Sept. 6.
“Special prayer request...please raise your voice in prayer to our Lord, Jesus for Bill and Pat Searcy. There is a on-going search in three counties of West Virginia for their plane,” read a Facebook post made by Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit.
Brian Flath, a Church of the Holy Spirit member, said he had heard the rumors circulating Tuesday and by Friday had been told officially the Searcys were, indeed, the missing couple.
On Sept. 7, the church announced a prayer service for Bill and Pat.
“The Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Carterville will host a prayer vigil for Bill and Pat Searcy tomorrow morning (Friday) at 7 am. Please join us if you can and keep praying,” a post to the Church’s Facebook page read.
Metro News in West Virginia confirmed Sept. 7 there were no survivors of the crash.
The Southern tried to verify with local officials details pertaining to the incident but were given no comment from the chief medical examiner’s office as well as the local sheriff’s office — all questions were deferred to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Terry Williams, a public affairs officer with the NTSB, could only confirm the NTSB investigation. He said investigators arrived Friday the document the scene.
Williams said weather is one thing the NTSB team will consider while trying to get to the bottom of what happened to the Searcys. However he said it was too early to tell.
“No we do not have any preliminary idea of what brought the aircraft down,” Williams said. He said the investigation should take about one year to complete.
Visitation for the Searcys will be 4 p.m. Friday at Riggin-Pillatsch & Burke Funeral Home in Carterville and a funeral mass will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at the Catholic Church of the Holy Spirit in Carterville.
Memorial contributions may be made to Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Anne West Lindsey Library, Carterville Rotary/Honor Wreaths, or to P.A.W.S. in Anna.