Motive for San Juan church plane crash still unknown 50 years later


Courtesy photo

SAN JUAN, Texas (KVEO)—Friday marks the 50th anniversary since an airplane crashed into Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle’s shrine.

The pilot, a former school teacher, crashed a small plane into the church into the 1970’s.

Acquaintances said the pilot deliberately smashed into the structure, after issuing a radio warning. No one knows why the pilot did this.

According to the Associated Press, about 30 priests celebrating at Mass in the church and 200 school children at their noon lunch fled safely from the Church of the Shrine of the Virgin of San Juan and the cafeteria.

Officers identified the pilot as Frank Alexander, 50, who resigned from his school job with the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school system and was also was a flying instructor, according to the AP.

Alexander’s body was recovered from the destroyed structures. It still was strapped in the pilot’s seat when found.

The church was destroyed by the fire, with only steel beams remaining. The church estimated the loss at $1.5 million.

The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event on Saturday at 5:30.

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