Plane flying from Bountiful crashes in Gorge; bodies recovered, identified

Plane crash upon a ledge in the Virgin River Gorge in the area of Interstate 15 at mile post 13.3 – 4.7 miles north of Littlefield, Arizona, July 20, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Arizona Highway Patrol Sgt. John T. Bottoms, St. George News

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.

"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 said in an email. "The wind was gusting. … Maybe  a couple of minutes later we saw smoke around the corner when we were coming down the hill. When we rounded the corner we saw the plane in flames." plane crashed upon a ledge in the Virgin River Gorge, about 4.7 miles north of Littlefield, Arizona, July 20, 2014 | Photo by Dawn Brents, St. George News
Plane over Virgin River Gorge before it crashed about 4.7 miles north of Littlefield, Arizona, July 20, 2014 | Photo by Dawn Brents, St. George News

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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Email: jkuzmanic@stgnews.com

Twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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14 Comments

  • bob July 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    he was 19, really?

    • St. George Resident July 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm

      Yes. Why is that so hard to believe?

      • Young July 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm

        Because at 19, flying that close to the Gorge seems irresponsible and unreasonable if you have a younger sibling with you and don’t have years of experience to deal with wind, weather, and other unexpected conditions.

      • Real Life July 22, 2014 at 1:41 am

        Yeah. Because the sky is full of 19 year olds flying 45 year old planes. Wake up resident.

        • Rachel July 22, 2014 at 11:16 am

          At what age, then, would you say that a person is mature enough to fly an airplane? Keep in mind that many of the pilots in the Air Force aren’t much older than this pilot was…

          • Andy July 22, 2014 at 3:34 pm

            Air Force pilots are better trained than any 19 year old civilian pilot, guaranteed. I’m not saying this poor young man was ill-trained, but same as driving a car when young…experience helps.

    • Sunday July 21, 2014 at 7:49 pm

      I understand your question. I wouldn’t encourage my 19 year old to drive to salt lake let alone fly. This is unfortunate and so sad for the family and friends. My condolences to the community, family and friends of these young men.

      • My Evil Twin July 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm

        You must have a very unstable 19 year old then. Either that, or one that has been “mother henned” to death. I’ve known of pilots that were licensed to fly at 14, two years younger than they could be licensed to drive. We have 19 year olds fighting and dying for our country.

  • Sunday July 21, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    This should have never happened. This was unfortunate and extremely sad for the family and friends.

  • bob July 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    most 19 yr olds i know can hardly drive a car safely, let alone a plane…

    • Rachel July 22, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Quite a few of the pilots in the Air Force aren’t much older than this kid and they fly faster, more advanced machines. In WWII we had kids lying about their age to get into the armed services who flew. Age doesn’t constitute responsibility/maturity.

  • Littlefield resident July 21, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    That is so sad my heart goes out to their family.

  • indy-vfr July 22, 2014 at 8:52 am

    I’m sure it’s safer in the air than on the streets of St George. Worst drivers I’ve ever seen!

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