Former Columbiana resident dies in plane crash

Former Columbiana resident Tommy Shelton was killed in a plane crash south of Forest City, Iowa.

Shelton, of Destin, Fla., was piloting the plane when it went down on Friday, Feb. 12. There were no passengers on board.

Shelton was a former pastor of the River of Life Church in Columbiana and later became pastor of the Maranatha Church. He retired from the ministry and left the area about four years ago, said a former member of his congregation, Yvonne Raia of Columbiana.

Shelton was an employee of Mayes Aviation of Orange Beach, Ala., a subsidiary of Columbia Southern University of Orange Beach. Part of his job was flying employees of Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, back and forth to Orange Beach for meetings with officials and staff at Mayes Education, Inc., which recently purchased the college. Mayes Education also owns Columbia Southern University.

Jessica Brown is vice president of marketing and communication at Waldorf College, and was a frequent passenger on planes piloted by Shelton.

In fact, she was scheduled to be one of the passengers on Shelton’s return trip to Alabama, along with two other Waldorf College employees.

“He was one of the kindest, most sincere men I’ve ever know,” Brown said. “He said a prayer before he took off for each flight, and I know he said a prayer before he took off to fly here on Friday.”

She said Shelton was an “excellent, very experienced pilot. He had more than 13,000 hours of flight time, and had flown in the military. He never took risks. He cared greatly for the safety of his passengers.”

The investigation into the cause of the crash has not been completed and no cause has been determined.

“He was an inspiration to all who knew him. He was certainly an inspiration to me. He was a God-filled and faith-filled man. I have no doubt where he is right now,” Brown said.

Shelton is survived by a son, Tommy; and two daughters, Michelle and Susan; and his wife, Gail.

Shelton was the son of the late Russ and Margie Shelton, who owned and operated Shelton Motors in Clanton for many years.