St. Cloud, Minn. A Roman Catholic priest died when his plane crashed south of Morris Municipal Airport, officials said Wednesday.
The Rev. Nathan G. Packard, 47, of Chokio, was flying alone Monday when he apparently went down shortly after his 5:30 a.m. takeoff, the Stevens County Sheriff's Office said. The wreckage was found at about 7 p.m. Tuesday by searchers who were called after his secretary realized Packard was missing.
Packard was flying to Olathe, Kan., in suburban Kansas City for his first meeting of the National Association of Priest Pilots.
The group's president, the Rev. Everett Hemann of Ames, Iowa, said he had assumed Packard changed his mind about attending the meeting.
"It never even crossed my mind to assume anything other than he got hung up at home," Hemann said.
Officials were called on Tuesday. The Federal Aviation Administration told authorities in Minnesota that Packard had not closed out his flight plan.
Packard's plane, a Cessna 182, was found in a cornfield one to two miles from the end of the runway, according to Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis.
The weather was generally clear Monday, though there may have been some ground fog, he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Packard was pastor of the Church of St. Mary in Chokio and the Church of St. Charles in Herman. He previously served as pastor at the Church of St. Rita in Hillman and the Church of the Sacred Heart in Wahkon.
St. Cloud Bishop John F. Kinney called Packard's death a "deep tragedy."