News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 16, 2014

Pastor makes safe emergency landing

God was his copilot

PARKE COUNTY — Jack Hopkins was flying his 1978 Cessna aircraft over the east side of Raccoon Lake when he experienced a total loss of engine power Wednesday afternoon.

A former military pilot and experienced general aviation pilot, Hopkins “did a very good job getting the plane down” with no injuries to occupants or anyone on the ground, said Kent Hutchins, Indiana conservation officer, who was at the scene.

Hopkins’ daughter was a passenger in the plane, which had significant damage.

The small plane crash occurred in Parke County just west of the Putnam County line and south of U.S. 36. The plane landed in a cornfield.

The Federal Aviation Administration and Parke County Sheriff’s Department are investigating. Hutchins was contacted because he knows Hopkins, who is his pastor.

Hopkins’ wife texted Hutchins. “She was reaching out for all the help she could find,” Hutchins said.

Hutchins’ son, Cory, is the Parke County sheriff’s deputy who responded to the report of a small plane crash.

FAA representatives remained at the scene early Wednesday evening.

As to the cause, “They have some preliminary suspicions, but they are not making it public at this time,” Hutchins said.

Hopkins was able to make a quick mayday call before he made the crash landing; the Eagle Creek airport heard the mayday and relayed the information to the Parke County Sheriff’s Department.

When the plane’s engine experienced power failure, there were not a lot of options as far as landing, Hutchins said. Nearby were woods, power lines and trees.

“He picked the best option, a cornfield,” next to an open area where a man operates radio-controlled planes, Hutchins said. Hopkins penetrated the cornfield by just about 50 feet and the plane stayed upright.

“He avoided two houses and several outbuildings,” Hutchins said. “With very limited time, he selected the best option available.”

Hopkins, pastor at Bridgeton Baptist Church, told him, “The Lord put the plane right where he wanted it.”

Hopkins and his daughter had flown to Spencer and were returning to his home east of Rockville, where he has an air strip.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or


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