Officials release names of 2 men killed in Cedar City plane crash

Authorities investigate the scene of an airplane crash near 6500 W. 4000 South, Cedar City, Utah, Aug. 2, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Authorities have publicly identified the two men killed in an airplane crash near Cedar City Sunday morning.

According to a news release issued Tuesday afternoon by the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Darwin Mao, 52, and Richard Essex, 63, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Both men were from Las Vegas, the statement said.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s website lists Mao as the registered owner of the single-engine aircraft, which was a North American Navion, a vintage airplane type that dates back to the 1940s.

Online flight tracking information indicates the aircraft took off from Strawberry Valley Airport, a small private airport near the town of Alton in Kane County, at about 8:17 a.m. Sunday. It then went down less than a half hour later a few miles southwest of its intended destination, the Cedar City Regional Airport.

Authorities say the airplane, which was reported to have been in distress, struck a large communications tower located near 6500 W. Vandenberghe Rd., knocking it to the ground. The plane then hit the ground nose first at a sharp angle, a short distance away from the wreckage of the toppled tower.

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board have taken custody of the aircraft wreckage and will be leading the investigation with assistance from the FAA. A preliminary report regarding the cause of the crash is expected to take at least a few weeks.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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