Beloved local priest injured in fiery airliner crash in Mexico

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The priest in charge of The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines is among dozens of people injured after an airliner smashed into the ground and burst into flames on Tuesday.

The AeroMexico flight crashed shortly after takeoff from the airport in Durango, Mexico, in the central part of the country. All 101 people on board survived the crash, and 85 were injured.

More than anything, those at Our Lady of Guadalupe are just happy to hear Father Sanchez is ok. He was supposed to be home Tuesday night after vacationing with family members in Mexico.

Father Esequiel Sanchez -- the rector of The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- quickly called home once he got to the hospital.

“He call us telling us that he was in the airplane that had the accident and thanks to God nobody died,” said Manuel Padilla, vice rector.

Padilla says Sanchez was in Mexico for a quick vacation. They believe he has a broken arm, but Padilla says he seemed in good spirits and thankful to be alive.

“For me he's a good friend, a person who has many gifts, skilled, very talented and intelligent,” said Padilla.

Father Sanchez became rector in 2016, overseeing the annual pilgrimages to The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Visitors spend time at the shrine year around, including parishioner Felix Ortiz.

“I think he's protected by virgin of Guadalupe,” Ortiz said.

He says Father Sanchez is nice and friendly, but also firm in his beliefs. Ortiz says he couldn't believe Sanchez was involved in such a horrific accident.

“I'm in shock because last Sunday he was here and now it’s an accident,” Ortiz said.

Now they wait, unsure what hospital he's even in or when he will be able to come home.

The Archdiocese of Chicago says in a statement, "He sustained some injuries but we are grateful to learn he is alert and resting. We pray for Father Sanchez and everyone affected by this plane crash.”