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The mystery of the ex-teacher who crashed his plane into a Texas church in 1970

Fifty-one years ago this month, a former high school math teacher crashed a small plane into a Catholic church in the Rio Grande Valley.

SAN JUAN, Texas — It was a majestic building, nearly 100 years old – a Catholic church known as The Shrine of the Virgin of San Juan in the small town of San Juan, Texas.

Around 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1970, 50-year-old flying instructor and former high school math teacher Frank L. Alexander flew a rented Piper Cherokee into the roof of the church.

Inside, 60 priests from across the Valley were holding a weekly meeting. Next door, 200 children were having lunch in the church school cafeteria. Even though the building erupted in flames, miraculously, everyone got out safely. The church and its priceless statues and relics were destroyed.

The pilot who died in the crash had issued a warning just minutes before his plane struck the roof of the building. From the air, Alexander radioed the McAllen International Airport control tower saying that all Catholic and Methodist churches in the lower Rio Grande Valley area should be evacuated. When asked why, he reportedly said: “There’s a serious plot.”

Today, a new church serves the Catholics of San Juan. It’s known The Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle. But to this day, no one has established a motive into why Alexander deliberately crashed his plane on that sunny October morning.


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