UPDATED with identifications and related 3:40 p.m.
ST. GEORGE – The remains of two brothers who died in a single-engine Cessna airplane crash in the Virgin River Gorge in Mohave County, Arizona, Sunday were recovered Monday morning, and their names released Monday afternoon. Their flight originated in Bountiful before crashing into a ledge above Interstate 15 in the Gorge sometime just before 6:30 p.m. MST (Arizona), 7:30 p.m. MDT (Utah).
Family of the deceased met with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue case manager, Sgt. Rob McEwen, during the recovery effort. Identification was withheld as McEwen honored the family’s request that identifications not be released until they have had opportunity to notify relatives themselves, Public Information Specialist Patricia Carter said Monday morning.
At 3:30 p.m., Carter released identifications. The pilot, Daulton Rey Whatcott, 19, was traveling with his younger brother Jaxon McKee Whatcott, 16, both from Clinton City, Utah, she said. They were traveling from Bountiful, Utah, en route to Mesquite, Nevada.
The father of the boys, Rhett Whatcott, posted on his Facebook Monday:
God took home two of his shining stars yesterday. Daulton Rey Whatcott and Jaxon we love you forever and miss you until we see you again. Many thanks to the outpouring of love and support. They were loved by all and I’m so thankful they had such great friends.
Daulton Whatcott was 6 foot 3 inches, graduated Syracuse High School in 2013, where he played both basketball and lacrosse, according to CBSsports.com’s maxpreps; he was attending Utah State University. Jaxon Whatcott was 6 foot 2 inches, entering his junior year at Syracuse High School, where he played varsity basketball, according to maxpreps.
Preliminary information indicatesd the plane departed from Bountiful, stopped in Beaver, and was headed to Mesquite, Nevada, Public Affairs Manager Ian Gregor said for the Federal Aviation Administration Pacific Division Monday morning. KSL reported Monday at 3 p.m. that the brothers were flying from Davis County to Las Vegas to attend a basketball tournament.
Ownership of the aircraft, a 1969 fixed-wing single-engine Cessna model 172K, tail number N84754, was registered on July 8 to D&G Aircraft Leasing LLC in Bountiful. The person St. George News reached by phone for D&G, inquiring about the plane, would not identify herself and said she did not know about the plane or any leasing. She referred questions to a brother-in-law who has not yet returned our calls.
People traveling through the Gorge on I-15 at the time witnessed the plane’s descent and said they heard no engine noise, Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt. John T. Bottoms said.
“We were watching the plane and made the comment that it was flying really low and it looked like they were trying to get the plane stable,” Dawn Brents wrote in an email, including a photo of the plane above the ridge before it crashed. “The wind was gusting.”
Given the narrowing of the Virgin River Canyon at the south end of the Gorge, strong gusty winds in the area are common. Weather conditions in the area surrounding the time of the crash were recorded as partly windy and cloudy, 98-100 degrees outside, 11 percent humidity and 17-22 mph southwest winds, according to weather.com.
The cause of the crash is under investigation and no suspected factors have been released by authorities.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct the investigation into the crash, NTSB will take the lead on the investigation and personnel are slated to be at the scene of the crash Monday afternoon. Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue members secured the crash site through Sunday night.
This is a developing story.
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