Beloved Las Vegas pastor killed on anniversary trip in Alaska

Congregation shocked, heartbroken

13 Action News is speaking with friends of the beloved pastor who was killed on an anniversary trip in Alaska on Monday.

"How can something like this happen?" said Gary Slavik.

Slavik attends First Christian Church. He says 50-year-old Pastor Steve Willis was more like a best friend.

According to Slavik, the pastor was there for him when his wife got sick about two years ago.

"He drove all the way to Phoenix to Mayo Clinic to be with me and her throughout the whole process," said Slavik.

Now, loved ones are trying to come to terms with the pastor's sudden death.

"We were just together and he was looking so forward to this Alaska trip," said Slavik.

Willis and his wife were in Alaska celebrating their first year of marriage.  

"We have a huge loss in our church now," said Slavik, "...but you know being a man of God he's being taken care of because that's God's promise to us."

Authorities say Willis was killed when a commercial canoe with 10 people on board overturned on Monday. Alaska State Troopers shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday received a report from the Haines Police Department that the commercial canoe with an operator and nine passengers had overturned in rapids near Davidson Glacier.

Everyone on board wore life jackets. The helicopter transported the nine survivors to a staging area.

The name of the boat operator was not immediately released.

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