2 missionaries killed in North Dakota car crash, including Riverton man

Latter-day Saint missionaries Elder Jacob Aaron Kesler from Ely, Nevada, and Elder Robert “Tommy” Gardner from Riverton were killed in a car crash on a North Dakota highway Tuesday.

Latter-day Saint missionaries Elder Jacob Aaron Kesler from Ely, Nevada, and Elder Robert “Tommy” Gardner from Riverton were killed in a car crash on a North Dakota highway Tuesday. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Two 20-year-old Latter-day Saint missionaries were killed after crashing into the back of a stopped semitruck on a North Dakota highway Tuesday.

The driver, Elder Robert "Tommy" Gardner, from Riverton, and passenger Elder Jacob Aaron Kesler, from Ely, Nevada, were both pronounced dead at the scene of the collision.

Kesler had been serving in the North Dakota Bismarck Mission since July 2022, and Gardner since November 2022.

The crash happened at little after 2:30 p.m., 11 miles south of Beulah, North Dakota, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Traffic came to a stop after a vehicle fire blocked the northbound lanes of North Dakota Highway 49, officers report, including the truck involved in the accident. The driver "did not see the stopped semi in the roadway," according to a release, and their SUV struck the trailer.

The driver of the semitruck was not injured. Both victims were wearing seat belts.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Wednesday, saying, "We send our love and condolences to Elder Kesler's and Elder Gardner's families and friends and their fellow missionaries. 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 says the crash remains under investigation.

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