A youth ministry leader, speaker and writer who lived in Yreka died early Thursday of injuries from a car crash.

Michael C. Yaconelli, 61, was driving a 2003 Ford Ranger pickup south on Interstate 5 just north of the Klamath River about 8 p.m. Wednesday night when it left the right side of the highway, hit a light post and careened back onto the road, a California Highway Patrol report said.

Yaconelli was wearing a seatbelt, but sustained major injuries, the report said. An ambulance took him to Fairchild Medical Center in Yreka, then he was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Redding.

He was alone in the truck and no other vehicles were involved in the accident, police said.

Yaconelli was a founder of Youth Specialties, a San Diego company that serves youth ministries. He was also the editor of a Christian satire magazine called The Door, and his most recent book was titled Messy Spirituality.
— Don Hildebrand, longtime director of Campus Life youth ministry in Medford and currently director of pastoral service at Rogue Valley Manor, had known Yaconelli for years.

Mike was very motivational, Hildebrand said. What made him so inspiring was he was so real. He was very honest in his struggle with his own faith. He made you think.

Yaconelli regularly spoke at Rogue Valley baccalaureates and graduations as well as at service clubs such as Rotary, Hildebrand said.

He was helping his father move from Grants Pass to Yreka when the accident happened, Hildebrand said.

Survivors include his wife Karla, his father, two sons, three daughters and four grandchildren.

A memorial is planned for — p.m. Sunday at the Yreka High School gym.