CARTERVILLE, Ill. — The death of a well-known, community-oriented couple is felt deeply in the small town of Carterville, Illinois.
The couple, Bill and Pat Searcy, were flying a Cirrus SR20 from Georgetown, Delaware to Flemingsburg, Kentucky, when the aircraft crashed in Wetzel County Tuesday afternoon.
Search crews found the aircraft around 2 p.m. Thursday, but there were no survivors from the crash.
Pastor Bob Morwell of the Carterville First United Methodist Church said the town was devastated to hear the news.
“There was a prayer service over at Holy Spirit early (Friday) morning for them, and a lot of people were sharing fond remembrances of them both,” Morwell said. “We’re just very shocked and disappointed that the result of the search was such a sad one.”
Morwell knew the couple for about three years, although they were not members of his church.
“There’s a cross tie because Mr. Searcy’s sister is very active here, and Mrs. Searcy worked as a volunteer at our after-school program,” he said. “They were members of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, which is right across the street from us.”
While Pat Searcy worked with the after-school program, Morwell said he had the opportunity to get to know her fairly well.
“She was a very stalwart, faithful volunteer and did good work and was ever-helpful,” he said. “In fact, we got word here at the church while we were having a planning meeting for the after-school program, and we were all, of course, quite shocked.”
Carterville, Illinois — of less than 6,000 people — is a small town where “everybody knows everybody,” Morwell said.
“I’ve heard nothing but compliments and kind words about them, and the community has definitely rallied around the whole family,” he said. “We’re kind of holding onto each other and helping each other as much as we can.”
Bill Searcy was a retired business man, and his wife, Pat, was a retired school teacher who taught in the neighboring community of Carbondale.
“He had a number of businesses,” Morwell said. “He was in a mall in a neighboring town for a number of years. He had a Swiss Colony Shop that he called ‘the cheese shack.'”
Morwell said they were both friendly, helpful and generous folks, who were good neighbors to all in Carterville.
“I was listening to some of the testimonies (Friday) morning,” he said. “She was a member of the choir. She helped with the financial committee of the church. She led the confirmation class. She was just ever-ready to help anytime they called on her.”
While any loss in a small community is heart-wrenching, Morwell said the mystery that surrounds the Searcys’ death makes it even more tragic.
“You know, we’re of course wondering what happened, how it went so badly,” Morwell said. “They were flying in a fairly sophisticated new plane that had an emergency parachute system, but apparently it did not deploy, so we’re not sure what happened.
“People are wondering about that, but we realize we may never know exactly what transpired,” he added. “We’ll have to live with the painful mystery of it and care for the loved ones as survivors.”
Morwell said judging by the turnout for Friday morning’s prayer service, he expects the funeral service to be quite large.
Though they don’t yet know when that will be, it will be held at the Carterville First United Methodist Church.
“They will be sorely missed,” Morwell said. “We hope to do anything and everything we can to be here as support to the family.”