SPOKANE, Wash. -

A Spokane couple who were serving as missionaries in Africa have been killed in an airplane crash on the Zambezi River.

Jay and Katrina Erickson were both killed when their aircraft hit an electrical pole and crashed into the Zambezi River in Zambia, according to members of the Hillyard church they attended. Jay Erickson had been trained as an airplane mechanic and pilot at Moody Aviation, which is part of Moody Bible Institute in Spokane.

The Ericksons, who were in Zambia working at the Chitokoloki Mission Hospital, were flying sick villagers to a hospital in northwest Zambia when their aircraft hit a Zambia Electicity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) pylon and then went into the river near the town of Zambezi on June 2.

video

The aircraft had left the hospital at 3 p.m. local time and had landed at Cavuma 30 minutes later. They left at 4 p.m. for their return flight to the hospital and crashed into the Zambezi at 4:30 p.m.

According to the mission hospital, this was the first time that Katrina had accompanied her husband on a flight away from Chitokoloki since their arrival several months ago.

The couple had two children, Marina and Coral, who stayed behind at the mission hospital.

On June 3 a search of the river located the plane upside down. A group of military personnel, including a team of Zambia Air Force divers, dove down to the plane and recovered Jay and Katrina's bodies from the aircraft.

Earlier this spring Jay Erickson had written an article for the missionary newsletter where he talked about pondering death since his family's arrival at the mission hospital. He talked about hearing the "wails of mourning with each death" from the bush hospital next to where they lived.

He talked about his faith and that in God and how he felt that the presence of death -- which he felt surgically removed from back in the United States -- gave him a more powerful appreciation of his faith.

He closed his article with a quote from C.S. Lewis: "'You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.' And I know that when this body dies, my soul will get a new one."

A funeral is scheduled for Tuesday at the mission hospital. With the approval of both Jay and Katrina's parents the couple will be buried at the Chitokoloki Mission Hospital.