FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) — Severe weather was likely a factor in the small plane crash that killed nine people, including a prominent Christian minister and his wife, on approach to the island of Grand Bahama, the foreign minister said Monday.
Heavy rain was buffeting the region when the Lear 36 Executive Jet struck a shipping container crane in Freeport as it tried to land, Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that a commercial Bahamasair flight making the same route, from Nassau to Freeport, had turned back because it was unable to land around the same time as the flight carrying the Rev. Myles Munroe and several members of his Bahamas Faith Ministries.
Civil aviation authorities launched the investigation on Monday.
The death of Munroe, one of the most prominent pastors in predominantly Christian Bahamas, stunned the country.
"It is utterly impossible to measure the magnitude of Dr. Munroe's loss to the Bahamas and to the world," Prime Minister Perry Christie said. "He was indisputably one of the most globally recognizable religious figures our nation has ever produced."
Born in 1954 in the islands' capital of Nassau, Munroe founded Bahamas Faith Ministries International in the early 1980s after studying at Oral Roberts University, a Christian liberal arts school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The charismatic pastor quickly became an influential religious leader among many evangelical Christians, giving sermons around the world and occasionally appearing on televangelist Benny Hinn's popular programs. He was also a motivational speaker and the author of numerous books, including the 2008 best-seller "God's Big Idea: Reclaiming God's Original Purpose for Your Life."
As news of the plane crash spread, members of his church were shown weeping on a Bahamas TV station or raising their hands in prayer. Fellow Christian pastors expressed shock.
"At times like these, I don't try to figure things out, I just know that all things ultimately figure into a larger and higher purpose that we may never fully understand in this present limited reality," Bishop Carlton Pearson, a high-profile U.S. minister who was a friend of Munroe's for 40 years, wrote on his Facebook page.
Munroe, 60, and his entourage were traveling to Grand Bahama to attend the 2014 Global Leadership Forum that he organized. He planned to have dinner in Freeport about 90 minutes after his plane's scheduling landing with former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, a speaker at the event, Mitchell said.
Munroe's wife, Ruth, was also on the plane, along with the pastor considered second-in-command at Bahamas Faith Ministries, Richard Pinder, as well as the group's youth minister and his wife and child.
Munroe, who grew up poor in the Bahamas, was considered an inspiration for many people in the island chain and abroad, the foreign minister said. "He has really put his name on the world stage and helped the Bahamas achieve recognition for talent," the foreign minister said.