Two young missionaries serving in North Texas on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were killed in a head-on crash Tuesday morning, Denton police say.
Police said 18-year-old Elder Luke Masakazu Carter, of Springville, Utah, and 20-year-old Elder Eli Jon Fowler, of Pueblo West, Colorado, were killed at about 11 a.m. Tuesday when the driver of a Ford F-250 pickup headed southbound on Sherman Drive crossed over the center line and crashed head-on into the missionaries' Toyota Tacoma.
Officials said both men died at the scene of the crash. The driver of the pickup was hospitalized after the crash though his condition is not known.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the two men were serving in North Texas assigned to the Texas Fort Worth Mission. Both men had been working as missionaries for less than 18 months with Fowler beginning his service in January 2020 while Carter started last fall in November.
Carter's mother, Paulette, said in a message that her son was happy he was to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"He would get emotional just telling people about his mission call to serve the Lord. He loved people in general and certainly loved the people he met in Texas. He was so happy all the time it was like he was filled with a light that couldn’t be dimmed," said Paulette Carter.
“We are saddened to share news of the passing of two young missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who were killed in a head-on traffic collision on Tuesday, in Denton, Texas," said Sam Penrod, a spokesperson for the church.
"We express our love and deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Elder Carter and Elder Fowler and to the missionaries in the Texas Fort Worth Mission. We pray that all will be uplifted by the Savior’s love and feel comfort during this difficult and trying time," said Penrod in a statement.
The investigation into the crash, which took place on a morning where there were several thunderstorms in the area, is ongoing. The church said both of the missionaries were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
“Anytime there’s a loss of life especially those who are in the service of the Lord, it’s heart wrenching," said Calvin Griffin, the Denton Stake President of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints.
He said the two young men had just finished a service project of serving daily bread to those in need. Since not that many people showed up on Tuesday, they left early and were headed back to their apartment in Aubrey, which is in Denton city limits.
“Sometimes things happen that’s beyond our understanding and so it has been very difficult and it’s so unreal right now because these were two excellent missionaries, not just average missionaries, but some of our best missionaries," said Griffin.
On Wednesday, other missionaries with the Fort Worth Mission also reflected on the two young men.
“They were just awesome people who knew why they were here in Texas serving the people here and they just had really strong faith," said Elder Derek Hayes is originally from Utah. "All of us missionaries know and his family know that we’ll see them again, I think that’s the most powerful truth that we know."
Griffin said right now they're relying on their faith to get through this and that's what he's reminding the other missionaries.
“It gave them comfort to know that what they were doing is the right thing and we all must prepare for our day and time that we know not when, but know it will come," said Griffin.
Officials have not said if the driver of the pickup will face any charges.