East Texas pastor drowns while saving another pastor in Costa Rica

Kelly Clarke, right (Photo via KETK)
Kelly Clarke, right (Photo via KETK)

TYLER, Texas (KETK) — On Christmas Day, tragedy struck the hearts of many as a well known youth pastor from Tyler died after drowning in Costa Rica, sacrificing his life for another.

“It’s shocking to hear what happened, it’s not shocking to hear that Kelly did that, to sacrifice himself to help someone else,” Sam Fisher, New Covenant Church pastor, said.

Kelly Carke moved to Costa Rica with his family as missionaries.

“That was my brother, I mean he would give his life if that meant saving another,” Tammy Beard, his sister, said. “He loved the Lord and wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

“Even when he was a teenager, he would say mom, one day I’m gonna be a pastor. And he became a pastor,” his mother said. “We had the opportunity to go out in the rainforest and jungle areas to do ministry together there, which was just a real strong part of his heart.”

On Christmas day, Clarke went swimming in Costa Rica with his friend, Pastor Manuel, and their families. The excitement turned to panic when Pastor Manuel’s son was swept into a riptide. Pastor Manuel went to save his son, and ended up needing saving himself.

That’s when Clarke reacted. “He would have had to know what he was getting himself into when he went into the water because if it was sweeping other people under and he saw them struggling you know, he would have known it would have been a struggle going in there, but he still went after those people,” Hannah Bower, a close family friend, said.

Clarke saved the pastor, and the son was OK. But he drowned in the midst of the chaos. Family and friends, now remembering Clarke for everything he was and everything he stood for.

“A very great husband, a wonderful father, and a fantastic brother,” Kerry Drinkard, his brother, said. “To me he’s a true hero.”

A man of faith and love being put to rest. The family is trying to bring Clarke back to East Texas to be buried at home. Within three days, the family had an outpouring of support from the community, and raised enough money through a GoFundMe page to make it happen.

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