"We knew they were leaving," Kathryne's father, Gordy Engel, tells PEOPLE. "But we didn't anticipate it would be this forever separation."

By Rose Minutaglio
August 04, 2016 11:30 AM

A Minneapolis family of five was killed in a car crash on Sunday on their way to a training session in Colorado to become missionaries.

Jamison and Kathryne Pals, both 29, were passing through Nebraska with their three small children, Ezra, 3, Violet, 23 months, and Calvin, 2 months, when a semi-trailer vehicle rammed into the family’s minivan. Both vehicles immediately combusted – and the entire Pals family died at the scene.

“We knew they were leaving to go to training,” Kathryne’s father, Gordy Engel, tells PEOPLE. “But we didn’t anticipate it would be this forever separation.”

“The last time we saw Jamison and Kathryne, we got together and held hands and prayed with them,” Nancy Engel, Kathryne’s mother, adds. “That was the last time we saw them.”

The grieving parents say they harbor no ill will towards the driver of the semi-truck, identified as 53-year-old Tony A. Weekly, who survived the accident and was treated at a Colorado hospital.

“We have been praying for Tony,” says Nancy. “We do not have bitterness towards him.”

Kathryne and Jamison met at the University of Northwestern-St.Paul, an evangelical Christian college in Minnesota, and had a “really beautiful family life” according to Kathryne’s parents.

They were devout Christians who planned to dedicate their lives as missionaries in Japan.

“Their life was centered on their faith and their children, they really parented together,” explains Gordy. “Jamison was a great father and both were so patient and kind.”


Kathryne and Jamison spent years getting ready to move to Japan and become missionaries through an agency called WorldVenture.

They kept a blog documenting their preparation on joyofjapan.org, where they also posted updates on Ezra, Violet and Calvin.

In their last post, the couple wrote about each of their beloved children.

“Our little guy is quickly becoming not little – he’s already well over 14 pounds. He loves to eat, smile and baby talk,” the loving parents wrote about their youngest baby, Calvin. “He’s probably our toughest baby yet, having survived the loving onslaught of his older brother and sister for over two months now.”

“Her middle name is Joy, and that is fitting,” they wrote about Violet. “She is a happy soon-to-be two year old who loves babies and always wants to ‘Go to Caribou (Coffee) tomorrow.’ She can normally be found talking on your cell phone with her Grandpa and Grandma or putting your chapstick on her babies.”

“When Ezra grows up, he still wants to be a worker guy, and we think he will be a good one. He has greatly enjoyed living in the Land of 10,000 Cousins (Papa and Nana’s house), where legos abound and naps are few. He is learning to swim and can hold his breath underwater for 14 seconds. Ezra understands well that we’re moving to Japan soon, though he wants to know if it’s a short or long drive from Grandpa and Grandma’s house,” Kathryne and Jamison wrote about their eldest child Ezra.

A memorial service for the family of five will be held on Saturday at the Bethlehem Baptist Church, the Pals’ place of worship.

“I’m turning my grief into hope,” says Nancy. “I know they’re in heaven now and that’s helping as we go through this journey of tragedy and grief.”