Richland missionary dies in Honduras plane crash

Flynn Tomchuk was drawn to the Central American country of Honduras several times as a missionary for the Jehovah's Witness congregation in Richland, most recently for a year-and-a-half on the island of Roatan as a full-time minister.

His father, Robert Tomchuk, said his son was impressed by the love the local people had for the Bible and God's word.

It was in pursuit of his own passion for spreading that word that Flynn Tomchuk died Monday at age 47.

Tomchuk was one of 14 people killed when a small Honduran commercial airliner crashed near the nation's capital.

Others among the dead were former and current senior government officials -- prompting the government to declare three days of national mourning -- and a union leader, The Associated Press reported.

The Central American Airlines plane was flying to the Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa when it crashed Monday morning in Las Mesitas, a town about three miles south of the airport.

The cause of the crash is being investigated, but there was fog in the area at the time. Toncontin airport is considered dangerous because of its short runway and surrounding hills.

The Let L-410 Turbolet was carrying two pilots and 12 passengers, including Rodolfo Rovelo, assistant secretary for Public Works, Jose Israel Salinas, a leader of the United Workers Federation of Honduras and former Economy Secretary Carlos Chain, said airline manager Felix Pacheco.

"I'm destroyed, in shock, because of what happened," Pacheco told the AP.

At least 10 planes have crashed in and around the Toncontin airport since October 1989, when a Honduran commercial jet went down, killing 131 people.

Toncontin's short runway, old navigation equipment and neighboring hills make it one of the world's more dangerous international airports. It was built on the southern edge of hilly Tegucigalpa in 1948 with a runway less than 5,300 feet long.

Also among the passengers were Flynn Tomchuk and two fellow elders from the English-speaking Jehovah's Witness congregation on Roatan, Robert Tomchuk said.

Flynn Tomchuk's wife, Tanya, his daughter, Alisha Tomchuk Bodden, and her husband, Robbie Bodden, were with him on Roatan but not on the flight.

Robert Tomchuk said his son was excited about the religious work he was doing on Roatan. He had been there a few times before -- staying longer each time.

Flynn Tomchuk was a co-owner of Sunscapes Inc., a landscaping firm based in Richland but had left that behind for the time being to become a full-time minister.

"He was out proclaiming the good news of God's kingdom," his father said.