When a rented single-engine airplane crashed early Sunday on the northbound lanes of California's Highway 101, the lives of four young Utahns were cut short.
Student pilot Deric Todd, 22, planned to complete his flight instruction and attend college during winter quarter in Provo, considering a possible career in aviation.His girlfriend, 23-year-old AnJeanette Marian, originally of Blanding, had recently completed an LDS mission to Texas and earned a promotion in her job at a Springville manufacturing firm. She was an avid seamstress and met Deric only weeks ago as a dance partner for country-music line dancing, her father said. It was her first time flying with him.
Lyman Gregory, a 23-year-old flight instructor for American Air Academy in Salt Lake City, lived in Orem and had recently married. He had been employed as an instructor at the academy for three months, academy spokeswoman Ann Hamby said.
Deric's brother, Daniel, 32, left behind a wife and six children in Salem and had gone along on the trip when someone else canceled at the last minute, his wife said.
"When you're young, you have dreams," Hiltje Todd said of her brother-in-law's interest in flying. "It was a last-minute thing (for Daniel). This was just something that he went along."
The Piper Arrow 200 went down shortly after takeoff from San Luis Obispo County Airport just after midnight Sunday, crashing through power lines to land on Highway 101, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.
The crash knocked out power to 11,000 homes, and debris from the plane hit a pickup truck, according to the California Highway Patrol. The driver was not injured.
National Transportation Safety Board officials were on the scene Monday to investigate the crash. Some witnesses apparently reported hearing the engine sputter before the plane went down, leading them to suspect possible mechanical problems, Hiltje Todd said. Others heard nothing and didn't realize it was an aircraft until after the power lines exploded and the plane skidded onto the freeway.
Deric Todd had rented the four-seat Piper from his Salt Lake flight school for the trip to San Luis Obispo, Calif., where the group visited his parents. They left Salt Lake City on Friday, with plans to return late Saturday.