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‘Why?’ Wife of pilot who crashed into Payson home may never find answers

PAYSON — A woman whose husband flew an airplane into their Payson home after they had argued and fought all day might never find the answers she's searching for now that he's gone.

"I don't know what was in his head," Sandy Youd said Thursday. "I don't understand why and I never will."

Meantime, the local aviation community where Duane "Rhedd" Youd was known as a trusted pilot and the company that owns the twin-engine jet say they don't know what more they could have done to prevent the tragedy.

What is known is that Rhedd and Sandy Youd had a terrible fight in American Fork Canyon last Sunday that led police to arrest and book him into the Utah County Jail for investigation of assault at 9:20 p.m. Rhedd Youd bailed out a few hours later.

At 12:52 a.m., he called Payson police to ask them to accompany him to his house at the mouth of Payson Canyon to collect some personal items. He then drove his truck to the Spanish Fork Airport where he took the Cessna Citation 525 belonging to VanCon Inc., a Springville-based general engineering company that employed him as a pilot.

Youd crashed into the front of his house, 584 E. Canyon Road, fully engulfing the front of the home in flames about 2:40 a.m. Sandy Youd and her adult son, who were sleeping inside, escaped without injuries. Rhedd Youd died at the scene.

Sandy Youd called her husband's actions "completely unexpected."

"I just want people to know what a fantastic guy that Rhedd was," she said.

The Youd children said at the scene Monday that their father and stepmother were going through a rough patch in their marriage, but that Rhedd Youd was a loving father and a hard-working, giving man.

A police report released this week reveals the couple's last day together turned violent.

The Youds started arguing and drinking Sunday morning. At some point in the afternoon, Rhedd Youd suggested they go for a drive to Cascade Springs, a serene forest in American Fork Canyon with boardwalks and paved trial running through near natural springs, streams and waterfalls.

Rhedd Youd became more agitated as they discussed an ongoing affair and he started screaming and yelling as they walked back to the truck, according to the report.

The yelling continued as they drove down the canyon. Youd stopped the truck, pulled his wife from the cab and tried to leave her at the side of the road. Sandy Youd jumped into the bed of the pickup because "she just wanted to go home," the report states.

Rhedd Youd started weaving down the canyon and slamming on the brakes, causing Sandy Youd to tumble around in the back. He stopped hard and tried to throw her out again. She climbed into the cab to get her purse with Youd punching her from behind, according to the report.

When she turned around, he hit his forehead into her face several times, and she scratched and clawed his face. Several passers-by came to her aid at that point.

On Thursday, yellow police tape continued to surround the still standing house, though the charred wreckage of the plane and an overturned car were gone. Boards covered doors and windows on the lower level of the blackened rock-and-stucco two-story home.

At the Spanish Fork Airport, manager Cris Child said Rhedd Youd's conduct was always "above exemplary."

"He was an extremely talented pilot and did his job well," he said. "He was a trusted member of the airport community."

Child said those in the airport community wish they had known Youd was hurting. "If there could have been any intervention, we certainly would have liked that opportunity," he said.

As the VanCon corporate pilot, Youd had 24/7 access to the airplane, which was housed in a locked hangar with a digital access code, as are most of the 182 aircraft at the airport.

"I can't think of anything that we could have done differently," Child said.

Like most small airports in Utah and around the country, Spanish Fork is a general aviation or "uncontrolled" airport, meaning it has no air traffic control tower. Pilots with access to secure areas — surrounded by barbed wire-topped fences, locked gates and security cameras — can come and go as they please. They share a radio frequency to announce takeoffs and landings.

"It's like I-15. You don't have to get permission to drive down I-15 in your car. It's really not any different," Child said.

Rhedd Youd once flew for Pinnacle Airlines, which is now Endeavor Air, a company that operates as Delta Connection. He also flew rescue flights for Air Medical Resource Group, now called Guardian Flight. He worked as the VanCon company pilot for 13 months.

A VanCon spokeswoman said the company is cooperating with the investigation into the incident and didn't have any comment Thursday.

But VanCon's president, Leon Van Sickle, told the Associated Press earlier this week that Youd was a "rock-solid" pilot. He flew employees to business meetings around North America in the company's only plane.

"He's the manager of the plane," Van Sickle said. "He had full access to it. … It all boils to trust. I don't know what we would have done different. He flies with our lives at stake and we thoroughly trusted him beyond measure. He took great care of us. He never took chances. Everything was by the book."

Van Sickle said he heard rumblings that Youd was having some marital problems but that he never fathomed he would do what he did. He was not aware of the domestic violence incident Sunday night or another one in April, he said.

Police arrested Youd in April for disorderly conduct. He eventually pleaded guilty on July 23, taking a plea in abeyance to the same charge. As part of his probation, he was ordered to attend marriage and family counseling, according to court records.