Car accident claims the life of Mike Yaconelli

YREKA – Well-known Yreka resident Michael C. Yaconelli, 61, died this morning from injuries received in a one-car vehicle accident at approximately 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Mike Yaconelli
“If I died right this minute, I would be able to say, ‘God, what a ride! What a ride!”
Mike Yaconelli at the YS Convention in Charlotte on 10/24/03quoted at Youth Specialties

The California Highway Patrol reported that Yaconelli was driving a 2003 Ford Ranger pickup truck southbound on Interstate 5 just north of the Klamath River at approximately 70 mph when, for yet unknown reasons, he allowed the pickup truck to leave the right side of the roadway where it struck a light standard.

The impact with the light standard on the right shoulder caused the pickup truck to reenter the freeway where it came to rest in the slow lane. He was alone in the vehicle and no other vehicles were involved.

Yaconelli, who was wearing his seatbelt, received major injuries from the impact. He was transported to Fairchild Medical Center by ambulance and then airlifted to the trauma unit at Mercy Medical Center in Redding where he died from his injuries.

The news of Yaconelli’s death came as a shock to the people who knew him, including many at the Yreka High School campus. Yaconelli was a former chairman of the board of trustees for the Yreka Union High School District and a strong supporter of the school and students.

“The whole school is in shock,” said district superintendent Jim Beck. “We have taken steps at the school to help our students and staff through this hard time.”

Beck said that Yaconelli was an absolute supporter of students – “the greatest one I have ever known.”

“Mike loved the young people, was dynamic, and had boundless energy,” Beck said. “He was passionate in his support of our kids and a mentor to many of us.”

Beck said that he has been friends with Yaconelli for many years. “Mike was a major organizer of Young Life and Teen Edge at Yreka High School, a program I strongly support. He has toured the world as a motivational speaker.”

Besides his work in Yreka where he pastored the Grace Community Church, Yaconelli was co-owner of Youth Specialties in San Diego.

“His passionate and refreshingly honest approach to Christianity and ministry make him a favored speaker,” states the cover from one of his books.

He was the author of numerous books including “Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People” and “Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith.”

Jon Hall, Teen Edge leader at Yreka High School, said Yaconelli was leading that Christian campus group (then known as ‘Young Life’) when Hall was a student there 25 years ago. Hall is now the Teen Edge minister and youth director at Grace Community Church in Yreka.

“I am still in shock,” Hall said. “Mike was a godly man that did far beyond what people knew.”

Hall said Yaconelli’s family will be gathering this afternoon to make plans for a service. He is survived by his wife Karla and two sons and three daughters.

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