Missionary pilot missing in Mali
A family is searching for answers after a pilot, who has served as a missionary in Africa for the past 25 years, went missing 10 days ago when his plane was hit by a tropical storm on his way to Mali.
The family worries that the pilot may have been captured by guerilla forces or drug lords.
Jerry Krause, 54, went missing on April 7 while flying a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900C near the island of São Tomé, where he was due for a refill of fuel, en route to Mali from South Africa.
About nine miles away from the island, an intense tropical storm reportedly hit and the missionary pilot lost contact with the local control tower at São Tomé. He has not been heard from since.
"We have no idea what happened to him," Januario Barreto, the control tower chief, told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday.
Barreto claims that the tropical storm caused lightning to hit the São Tomé control tower, causing it to temporarily lose power shortly after it had its last verbal communication with Krause.
When the generator at the control tower restored power, Jerry could not be contacted.
Jerry's family, which includes his wife, Gina, his brother, Jeremy, and three children, Alyssa, Nathan, and Jessica, has set up a website, www.findjerry.com, to provide updates about their search for their loved one, implore government officials to help with the search, and encourage followers to pray for Jerry's safe return.
The family has also set up a social media campaign, starting the Twitter trend "FindJerry" and setting up a Facebook page to spread awareness about their missing loved one.
The Krause family wrote on the FindJerry.com webpage that they believe the São Tomé control tower did not follow protocol when Jerry's plane went missing, and could possibly now be trying to cover their tracks to avoid reprimand.
"Sao Tome air traffic control did not contact mainland airports to check on Jerry's status as they should have," the family says on the website.
Additionally, the family refuted the claims of the control tower that lightning from the tropical storm knocked out the power of the control tower for a temporary time when Jerry went missing.
"[The control tower officials] are either stating this now to cover their tracks since they didn't follow protocol when a plane went missing or they are involved somehow with the disappearance," the family argued.
"It would have made sense had they come out and said that from the beginning, but such thing was said last week about electricity going out," the family noted.
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The family also believes that because no plane wreckage has been found, it's possible that Jerry is alive and surviving.
Unfortunately, there is a chance Jerry landed his plane in enemy territory and is being used as a pilot for drug traffickers against his will.
"After much research and digging, there is a 50% chance that Jerry's plane crashed. That other 50% is the probability that he was captured and forced to fly for some drug lords or guerillas members. There is evidence now to support both scenarios," the family stated.
In an earlier blog post, the family wrote that Jerry's plane would have crashed into "a million pieces," which surely would have been washed ashore by the changing tide or scooped up by fishing nets, and therefore, because no plane fragments have been found, "there is more potential that he was potentially ambushed or kidnapped."
"Again, there is no proof of kidnapping, but it's becoming more of a reality. Please pray for the US Embassy officials to get answers and for other countries to cooperate as we continue to search," the family wrote.
The family has also been making progress in spreading awareness of Jerry's absence to the authorities in both the US and South Africa, successfully filing a missing person's report in the US to enable the National Transportation Safety Board and the South African Civil Aviation Authority to begin their investigation into the pilot's whereabouts.
Additionally, the Krause family offered a $5,000 reward for information on Jerry's whereabouts, including providing fragments of his plane, but no one has come forward with any evidence.
The family continues to remain hopeful and faithful during this time of uncertainty, writing on their Find Jerry website that they are grateful for the prayers given to their family and to Jerry.
"We serve a God who can move mountains and whose mighty hand is over this entire situation," the Krause family wrote.
Jerry Krause has worked as a missionary in Africa for the past 25 years, spending the past 16 years in Mali with his wife, Gina. He most recently worked for the Sahel Aviation Service, a commercial company which provides air transportation in the areas around Mali.
Prior to that, Jerry also worked as a pilot for the Mission Aviation Fellowship for 22 years, which works to help over 1,000 Christian and humanitarian organizations with air transportation and delivery.
Jerry worked for the MAF until 2009, when the air service ended its work in Mali.