Plane crash survivors give thanks, honor victims

'They saved us,' tearful teen says

The young couple moved slowly up the church sidewalk Sunday, Sarah Conklin using crutches, Joshua Rumohr sporting a gash behind his ear. Dozens of friends walked behind.

In a tearful service at First Baptist Church of Newnan, the survivors of Friday's small-plane crash gave thanks and honored the victims: their 18-year-old friend, Sasha Medina; and Judge Sanford "Sammy" Jones.

"They took all the impact — they saved us," Conklin, 19, said afterward. "Sasha saved Josh for sure because he was behind him, and Mr. Sammy saved me. It's just a miracle, it really is."

Conklin and Rumohr were sitting in the far back seats when the plane took off from Destin, Fla. But when engine trouble hit the six-seat Beechcraft Bonanza, Jones told the couple to move up and sit with their backs to himself and Medina.

"We're really thankful to be alive, we're blessed, and I want to thank everyone who's been praying for us," said Rumohr, 18.

Conklin said her body is recovering, "but emotionally I'm hurting. I lost a good friend."

Going to church and being surrounded by friends "was very helpful," she said.

"It was overwhelming to have that support," added Rumohr.

While the service's agenda was no different than any other Sunday, the focus was never far from the crash victims. Dr. Jimmy Patterson, the church's senior pastor, said that Medina was one of the first people he baptized. He recalled the West Georgia student as a young man full of faith.

"Sasha is in heaven," he said. "We have not lost Sasha. We know where Sasha is."

Jones, 56, Fulton County's chief Juvenile Court judge from 1999 to 2008, took off early Friday in his single-engine plane from Newnan-Coweta County airport. He picked up the three teenagers, who had driven to Destin to deliver a car.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why the plane went down in an east Alabama hayfield.

Jones' funeral will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Medina's funeral will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church of Newnan.

Medina, Conklin and Rumohr all graduated from Newnan High last year. Conklin just completed her freshman year at Valdosta State and plans to transfer to West Georgia. Rumohr is a student at North Georgia College and State University.

One of Medina's friends, Casey Sherman, said Medina's final moments "exemplified him fully."

"He always gave his utmost to serve others," Sherman said. "He would do anything for his friends."