Lone Survivor Tells Story Of 2012 Plane Crash That Killed 4 Men

Monday, November 18th 2013, 11:42 pm
By: News On 6

Former ORU student Hannah Luce was the sole survivor of a small plane crash in May 2012, which killed four of her former classmates and colleagues.

Hannah stopped by Tulsa on a recent book tour and we sat down to talk about her ordeal, her faith and her ongoing struggle to understand.

"I've worked for months trying to figure out why it was me that was alive and they died," she said.

It began a beautiful spring day, filled with promise. Hannah Luce and her friends piled into a small plane on their way to a Christian youth rally in Iowa, led by Hannah's father.

It ended in a Kansas field, with three of the boys killed on impact and Hannah trapped inside the plane, fighting for her life.

"My body is dangling from the plane, essentially half way in and half way out. I'm on fire and my shoes, that were my mother's shoes...what happened is they started melting to my feet and melting to the seat, so I was stuck," Luce said.

9/6/2013 Related Story: NTSB: Cabin Heater To Blame For Kansas Plane Crash That Killed ORU Grads

Like three of the men on board, Luke Sheets, Stephen Luth and Austin Anderson, Hannah was a recent graduate of Oral Roberts University. Garret Coble was a former teacher there, and one of Hannah's closest friends. She was forced to crawl over his body to escape and almost gave up, herself.

"You know, that wrestling in my soul was deeper than any sort of physical pain," Hannah said.

The NTSB determined the cause of the crash was a fire in the plane's cabin heater.

By the time Hannah fought her way out, one of her lungs had already collapsed. It was at this point, she came face to face with her beloved friend, Austin Anderson. The former Marine was bleeding and burned over 90 percent of his body.

"And he asked me, 'How do I look?'" Hannah said. "That was when I got to look into his soul. That was his way of saying, 'It will be alright.'"

Austin helped Hannah flag down help and died just hours later.

A 22 years of age, burned over 30 percent of her body, Hannah Luce was forced to examine the core of her life and her faith.

"How do I move on from this? Was this my fault? How can I move forward when I never really knew where I was going in the first place," said.

Hannah's struggle with faith was actually something she'd tried to hide for years. The daughter of Teen Mania founder Ron Luce, she spent her childhood traveling the world and attending concerts where tens of thousands of teens found their way to the Lord.

"It was the first time I felt the presence of God, like that strong, and honestly it just changed my life," Hannah said.

But increasingly, Hannah herself questioned her father and some of his core beliefs.

During the long months of her painful recovery, she came to see him in a different light.

"My dad stood by me and I stood by him, even through the struggles that we had belief-wise," Hannah said. "He was there for me. He was there for me when I wouldn't let anyone else in the room."

Hannah still carries the scars of that plane crash in her heart and on her body--markers, she calls them, of the day that changed her life.

"The doctors reconstructed my hand," Hannah said. "I didn't even have nails. I don't have four fingerprints."

10/28/2013 Related Story: Survivor Of 2012 Plane Crash Which Killed Fellow ORU Grads Releases Book

Now, she's chronicled her journey in a book called "Fields of Grace," which she's traveling the country to promote, despite the fact that her own healing is far from complete.

"And yet, at the same time, I feel compelled by the boys to make them proud," Hannah said.

Her proceeds from the book are dedicated to the boys and a new non-profit that will work to aid war refugees, starting in Syria.

It is time, she says, to move forward.

"I still don't understand why things happen like this. All I know is what I can do now, and how I can live now," Hannah said.

It was reported at the time of the crash that Austin Anderson pulled Hannah from the burning plane. While that didn't happen, Hannah said she has no doubt he saved her life. She said she was so disoriented and in so much pain, that she never would have made it out of the field without Austin to lead the way.