Two missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints killed in North Dakota crash

Jun 5, 2024, 11:42 AM | Updated: 5:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Two missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were killed in a car crash in North Dakota on Tuesday. The two missionaries were serving in the North Dakota, Bismarck Mission.

The Church said “Elder Jacob Aaron Kesler, 20, from Ely, Nevada, and Elder Robert “Tommy” Gardner, 20, from Riverton, Utah, both passed away at the scene of the collision. The missionaries were traveling on a highway outside of Beulah, North Dakota, when their vehicle struck a semi-truck, which had stopped in the road due to an accident.”

Elder Kesler had been serving since July 2022 and Elder Gardner since November 2022.

“We send our love and condolences to Elder Kesler’s and Elder Gardner’s families and friends and their fellow missionaries in the North Dakota Bismarck Mission,” a statement from the Church stated. “We pray they will each be comforted and feel peace during this tragic time as they reflect on the faithful service these young men have given to the Savior, by sharing His gospel.”

The North Dakota Highway Patrol told KSL TV on Wednesday that there was another crash on the highway, which the semi had stoppped for.

“The fire department was out there putting the fire out,” said Sgt. Jeremiah Bohn, with the NDHP. “Traffic was backed up about a mile and the semi had stopped for the traffic and the vehicle that was driven by the 20-year-old males ran into the back of the semi.”

The missionaries were traveling on Highway 49 at the time of the crash.

“You could see for several miles the semi was stopped in the roadway,” Bohn said. “Crashes on that road are very rare. You don’t see a lot of speeding or passing on that road.”

Elder Gardner’s parents told KSL that he was an track athlete at Riverton High School.

In a post on Facebook, a fomer companion of Elder Gardner wrote, “He was one of the best athletes he’d ever met, and that he exuded excitement to get out and help other people, and that he worked tirelessly to become a full-time missionary.”

He also wrote that Elder Gardner loved talking about his family, and he loved being a big brother and son.

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Two missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints killed in North Dakota crash