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Duluth pastor's son dies in Haiti earthquake

DULUTH -- The adult son of two Lutheran pastors has apparently perished under a Port-au-Prince mountainside building that collapsed during Tuesday's Haitian earthquake.

Benjamin Larson, the youngest child of the Rev. April Ulring Larson, senior pastor at First Lutheran Church in Duluth, and the Rev. Judd Larson, interim pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Duluth, is believed dead in the rubble.

"He loved God. He loved the church. He loved people. He was just one of those people that built love and community wherever he was," April Ulring Larson said Thursday morning. "He was somebody who loved life. Loved living. He loved God and was a person filled up with joy. He was just a ton of fun."

Benjamin Larson, his wife, Renee Splichal Larson, and his first cousin, Jonathan Larson, flew to Haiti Monday to help with the new Haiti Lutheran Church. Ben Larson was teaching at the Pastors and Lay Leaders Theological Conference. All three are fourth-year seminarians, according to a press release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The three were staying in a guest house at St. Joseph's Home for Boys on a mountain in Port-au-Prince. The building collapsed on all three, but Renee Splichal Larson and Jonathan Larson were able to escape. They were unable to find Benjamin and were forced to flee down the mountain. They returned to the ruined building on Wednesday but were unable to find Benjamin.

"It is believed now that Ben has been killed in the Haiti Quake," wrote the Rev. Duane H. Larson, President of Wartburg College where Judd and Larson were studying for their master of divinity degree. They were on January term break from school.

April Ulring Larson said there appears to be no hope her son escaped the collapse.

"No. I don't think so. And if he could have, he would have found a way to his wife," she said.

Rafael Malpica, Executive Director of the ELCA Global Mission Unit, told Pastors Judd and April Larson that the church "will do everything they can to help find Ben and bring him home."

The magnitude-7 earthquake struck late Tuesday afternoon, flattening much of the capital city, which has some 2 million residents. News reports say the death toll could reach tens of thousands. Hospitals, schools, prisons, and even the huge National Palace toppled.

This was the worst earthquake to hit the country in 200 years, and aftershocks continued Wednesday. Cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs began arriving Wednesday in what is considered the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.