Two killed in plane crash near Santa Clara

Wreckage of a plane crash southwest of the City of Santa Clara, May 7, 2014 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office

UPDATES:  This is a developing story and this post is being updated continuously as the incident unfolds and information becomes available. Refresh the page for updates.

Wreckage of a plane crash southwest of the City of Santa Clara, May 7, 2014 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Department
Wreckage of a plane crash southwest of the City of Santa Clara, May 7, 2014 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department

SANTA CLARA — A small airplane has crashed in the desert near the City of Santa Clara Wednesday morning. Life Flight had located the wreckage of the plane by 11:48 a.m. southwest of the city.

UPDATE: 8 p.m.:  “At this time we are able to confirm the aircraft involved in the incident was a single engine, fixed wing plane,” the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “The aircraft is registered to a flight school based out of the St George area. At this point we are unaware of any radio traffic or emergency beacons indicating the aircraft was in distress prior to the incident. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with investigators from the FAA to try and determine the cause of the accident.”

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: The bodies of the victims have been recovered. Due to harsh terrain, a helicopter was used in the retrieval process.

“Although initial notification has been made to the families, it is the policy of the Sheriffs Office to withhold the names for at least 24 hours to allow the families to notify next of kin,” the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. ” Additional information regarding the victims will be made available some time tomorrow.”

Story continues below | Note: this video was compiled before the bodies were retrieved

Videocast by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Updated 4:40 p.m. – Ongoing Investigation: An emergency response team staged Wednesday morning at the Cove Wash Trailhead in the Santa Clara River Reserve with relation to the crash.

Emergency responders at the staging area of a plane crash, Cove Fort trailhead, Santa Clara River Reserve, May 7, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Emergency responders at the staging area of a plane crash, Cove Fort trailhead, Santa Clara River Reserve, May 7, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The terrain is affecting the recovery and the investigation, Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Crouse said. Since the crashed airplane is on the slope of a hill, Search and Rescue crews are assisting with the recovery and processing the evidence, Crouse said.

“Getting the personnel out there is obviously an obstacle that we’re having to overcome.”

Thankfully, Crouse said, Search and Rescue and Bureau of Land Management members are there, specifically, a high-angle team from Search and Rescue.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified and will be working with Washington County Sheriff’s Office Detectives in the investigation of the incident. Members of the Santa Clara Fire Department were also on scene.

UPDATED 2:50 p.m – Witness Statement: The plane was in the air, started sputtering and just dropped straight down, witness Jonathan Hawkins said in a media interview after the incident.

The airplane went down behind a ridge so Hawkins didn’t see the actual crash. After calling 911 and attempting to call the FAA he rode his bike up to the plane crash.

A helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety used to retrieve the bodies of the crash victims, Santa Clara, Utah, May 7, 2014 | Photo courtesy by Mori Kessler, St. George News
A helicopter from the Utah Department of Public Safety used to retrieve the bodies of the crash victims, Santa Clara, Utah, May 7, 2014 | Photo courtesy by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Around 9 a.m. Hawkins was starting a bike ride with his brother on the Barrel Roll Trail in the Santa Clara River Reserve. He saw the plane go down and he and his brother called 911 and attempted to call the Federal Aviation Administration. Hawkins then rode up on the trail, and saw the plane crash about 3/4 of the way up the side of a hill.

Hawkins went over to the hill and yelled to see if anybody would answer him, but no one answered. Hawkins was across a wash, about 2/10 of a mile from the crash when he yelled, he said.

He never saw any movement.

“I couldn’t get over by it,” Hawkins said, “I told them I’d go for help.” Hawkins then rode down, borrowed a phone and waited for emergency personnel to show up.

UPDATE 1:35 p.m: There were two occupants confirmed dead in the crash according to a press release from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Additional information regarding the victims will be available following the notification of next of kin.

This report is based on preliminary information from emergency responders, other agencies and does not presume to contain the full scope of findings.

St. George News reporter Drew Allred contributed to this report.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

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

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  • Kasey May 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I’m confused as to when this actually happened. There are two separate dates May 7 2013 and May 7 2014. Which is it?

    • Avatar photo Joyce Kuzmanic May 8, 2014 at 6:49 am

      I’m not seeing them, Kasey. This was May 7, 2014. Yesterday. Live post, updated continually – maybe we had mistype in there for a bit.

  • john May 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    what is the tail number?

    • Brian May 7, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      I tried reading it off the picture (and even de-skewing it in Photoshop) so I could look it up on the FAA website, but it was unreadable.

    • Collin May 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm


  • Mark May 7, 2014 at 5:04 pm


  • Joe May 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Its not three six foxtrot is it? I did my first solo in that plane in 2008.

  • JAR May 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Good reporting Mori and Drew.

  • Fred May 7, 2014 at 6:03 pm


  • Collin May 7, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    John, It’s N8236F.
    I’d recognize that bird any day. It’s the one I learned to fly in some 7 years ago

  • Bender May 7, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    N8236F 🙁

  • Pilot May 7, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    It was a Cessna 150 from SGU. Condolence’s to the family.

  • AV8R May 7, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    So this plane is used for flight instruction. Stall training immediately comes to mind, based on the witness’s description of a normal-sounding engine, just before a sputter, which in the stall training scenario sounds a lot like pulling the throttle to idle. At that point the control yoke is pulled all the way back to induce the stalled condition, which is when the plane will begin losing altitude rapidly. A stall can degrade into a spin very fast in the absence of recovery action. This training should be done with plenty of altitude to recover. Purely speculation on my part, but maybe the old U2 pilot acting as instructor here was just a little too cocky for his and his passenger’s own good, and there wasn’t room to recover. Or this could be a suicide.

    • G_Rise May 8, 2014 at 8:48 am

      In response to the comment about the old U2 pilot. He was my instructor and I can verify that he was not the type to practice stalls from an unsafe altitude. He always put safety first when we went maneuvering.

    • kit May 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

      Ok you jerk…suicide??? Really that was harsh!!! You think 2 people wanted to go out that way?? I knew one of the deceased and it was NOT a suicide so youre totally being an a..* to even mention that.Put a sock in it!!!!
      *Ed. elipse

    • TheRealPilot May 8, 2014 at 11:50 am

      I flew this very plane only three months ago.I received my private in this plane. I learned from the “cocky” u2 pilot you speak of and he is anything but. He is a fine pilot and I find it great honor to have learned from someone that has his experience and generosity. Having seen many aviation disasters this could have happened because of a multitude of reasons its too soon too say. In time like this I have to think of the families of those involved and the what they now have to go through. You are truly a pitiful person with a very sad life if you immediately find people to blame instead of thinking of how awful a situation this is for those involved.

    • Garth May 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      Gary was a good friend of mine of many years ago. I have followed his career from afar and had comfort in knowing he was there…. He has had a major influence on many lives through his military service and just as a good person. I regret this and it is a loss for all of us. My best wishes to Gary’s family and the the family of the Student Pilot.

    • Hey May 8, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Some more speculation on my part but perhaps you shouldn’t speculate when it slanders the deceased. Who takes a student pilot or an instructor pilot with them to commit suicide? Some more speculation is that a lot of family and friends will be reading through this article and won’t appreciate your speculation about the pilot being cocky or either of the passengers being suicidal.

    • D Hodja May 9, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      what a complete douche

      • Super Grover May 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm

        Well, not really. After all, douches actually serve a purpose.

      • AV8R May 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        Listen, I didn’t know these people, so…really couldn’t care less. People die every day.

        • livinthelife May 11, 2014 at 10:41 am

          AV8R, People do die every day and I believe there are not to many in this world that would care if it was your turn to die today, just sayin’ you are a real …
          Ed. ellipsis.

    • Sparky May 14, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      You do realize that U2 pilots are the best pilots ever at stall prevention and recovery. At altitude the US the SOS (where the wings get ripped off the airframe) and stall speed are a mere 22 kts apart. That doesn’t make one cocky, it makes them good.

  • Joe May 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    I loved flying 36F. 🙁

  • KanabCowgirl May 7, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Ouch! That’s really sobering! Looking at the one picture it looks like the plane was slapped down. Hope u get what I mean.
    Condolences to the families of the two people who passed away.

  • CRASH May 7, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    when that plane went over my head this morning I heard the motor did not sound right!! like a v 8 running on five, it went behind the house but I couldn’t stop thinking “that sounded wrong ” seven years planes every day, that one was not running correctly!!!

  • Super Grover May 8, 2014 at 7:03 am

    I think there are a whole lot of us in town whose first solo was in that airplane. It had the extra 20 hp and that reserve fuel tank behind the seats that made it a good airplane to learn in without having to spend more by stepping up to a 172 or Cirrus. My wife was a flight attendant at Skywest for several years and has fond memories of …. They had talked about him giving her some flight instruction in our 172 before he went off to Nepal. The flying community lost a good one yesterday.
    Ed. ellipsis (Note: Super Grover, we are not publishing the names of the deceased, honoring authorities’ choice to wait until next-of-kin notifications are confirmed. Feel free to add your mention in after we do that.)

  • Mourning May 8, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Hey AV8R the instructional pilot that lost his life yesterday was not only an incredibly safe, sound pilot he was a wonderful family man that loved many friends and family. He was neither cocky nor suicidal. I would venture to say the pilot (my Uncle) has forgotten more about flying than AV8R will ever know. Your comments are IGNORANT!

  • AV8R May 9, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Very suspicious crash.

    • Super Grover May 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      Curious, yes. Suspicious-I think not.

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