Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cessna 172H, N3712F: Fatal accident occurred February 25, 2017 in Panguitch, Utah

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas 
Continental Motors Inc.; Mobile, Alabama 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report- National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA065
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, February 25, 2017 in Panguitch, UT
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N3712F
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On February 25, 2017, about 2040 mountain standard time (mst), a Cessna 172H, N3712F, was substantially damaged following impact with terrain while maneuvering at a low altitude about 11 nautical miles (nm) north-northwest of Panguitch, Utah. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The cross-country flight was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and a flight plan was not filed. The flight departed Page Municipal Airport (PGA), Page, Arizona, at about 1918, with the reported destination as South Valley Regional Airport (U42), Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to a friend of the family, the pilot initially departed the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA), Phoenix, Arizona, during the late afternoon on the day of the accident. The pilot's friend stated that the pilot texted him at 1853, that he had just landed at PGA and was in the process of getting fuel. The friend opined that he and the pilot then discussed cloud conditions along the next leg of the flight from PGA to U42, with the pilot stating the he intended to proceed on a route to Bryce Canyon (BCE), Utah, Richfield (RIF), Utah, and then following the lights of Interstate Highway I15 to his destination. PGA airport personnel who topped the airplane off with aviation fuel stated that the pilot departed at 1918 for U42; the distance of the flight was of about 220 nm.

When the pilot failed to arrive at U42 that evening, a family member contacted local authorities. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) subsequently issued an Alert Notification (ALNOT) the following morning, February 26th, at 0509 mst. That morning search and rescue operations were put into effect, which were suspended later in the day with no sightings of the wreckage reported. During the morning of February 27th, search and rescue operations resumed, with the airplane's wreckage located in mountainous terrain at about 1100 mst.

On the morning of February 28th, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA, assisted by members of the Iron County Sheriff's Department, Cedar City, Utah, surveyed the accident site. The survey revealed that the airplane had initially impacted mountainous terrain in a nose-low attitude on a southwest heading at an elevation of about 7,258 ft msl. The airplane then traveled downslope for about 211 feet before coming to rest after impacting upsloping terrain of a ravine at an elevation of about 7,237 ft msl. The site survey further revealed that all flight control surfaces necessary for flight were accounted for at the accident site.

The wreckage was recovered to a secured salvage facility for further examination.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

It wasn’t a good day at work Monday for those who are employed at Page Municipal Airport. Talking to some of the people who work there, in various capacities for several different companies, they were feeling somber over the fatal crash in Utah involving a small plane that claimed three lives.

The Cessna 172 was piloted by Sandy, Utah resident Randall Wells. With him, he had his son, 8, and his daughter, 3. They had refueled at Page’s airport Saturday evening just hours before the plane disappeared in the Panguitch, Utah area. It was found Monday morning broken up in a wooded area. There were no survivors.

An employee at the airport, who assisted Mr. Wells, reportedly thought the man looked fatigued. He apparently offered Wells and his two children a place to rest at the airport for the night, but was turned down.

The National Transportation Safety Board is, reportedly, looking at fatigue as a possible cause for the crash, along with a number of other possible causes. It’s also reported that the FAA was planning on sending someone to Page to test the fuel that was used to fill the Wells’ airplane. It’s a common practice following a crash.

A “gofundme” account has been set-up for the Wells family. At last report $115,000 had been raised. Mrs. Wells is 20 weeks pregnant, expecting a little girl soon.

On Tuesday a member of the family sent a Thank You message to the five Utah counties that had their emergency crews searching for the plane on Sunday and Monday, until the plane was found at 11 AM. Those counties were Iron, Garfield, Sevier, Beaver and Piute. Though found near Panguitch, the plane was actually in Iron County, where their Sheriff’s Office is assisting in the investigation.

The thoughts of appreciation from the family read:

“We would like to share our love to all of the volunteers that came out the past two days to help search. And also those who expressed their love on social media. We can’t describe how grateful we are for the closure we received and that we were able to find the plane.”


IRON COUNTY, Utah — A man and his two children have died after their small plane crashed in Iron County over the weekend.

The pilot, Randall Wells, was the bishop of an LDS congregation in Sandy. Wells and his two children, a 3-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, were all killed in the crash.

The aircraft was reported missing after leaving Phoenix Saturday with a destination of Salt Lake City International Airport, where it was scheduled to arrive Saturday night.

Search crews from five counties searched for the plane Sunday, but discontinued the search around 8 p.m. due to cold weather.

An aerial search crew spotted the plane shortly before 11 a.m. Monday.

Wells' family tells Fox 13 News the last they heard from Randall was a text message that came in around 10 p.m. Saturday saying he was flying in the Bryce Canyon area on his way back to Salt Lake City.

Denise Dastrup, public information officer for Garfield County, said the last signal received from the airplane came in around 8:30 p.m. Saturday in the Sandy Peak area, near Panguitch.

St. George News reported crews from Iron, Piute, Beaver, Garfield and Sevier counties searched for the missing Cessna 172.

Link: GoFundMe account for Kristin Wells


[UPDATE] A Sandy father and his two children were found dead Monday after a plane crash in southern Utah. 

Garfield County officials confirm a plane was found by a search and rescue helicopter in the lower Bear Valley are between Panguitch and I-15 north of Dixie National Forest. 


A family friend has confirmed with ABC4 that the possible downed plane was carrying a father and his two kids.

Randy Wells of Sandy is said to be aboard with his two children. Wells is reportedly a bishop of the Mount Jordan 3rd Ward in Sandy.

[previous story]

PANGUITCH, Utah --   Officials are looking for a possible downed aircraft in a mountainous area near Iron and Garfield Counties Sunday afternoon. 

Dispatchers confirmed that the aircraft was last heard from sometime Saturday night and it is unclear when the plane would have crashed but crews have been out searching all morning. 

The aircraft is believed to have possibly crashed in a very wooded area, making it difficult to search but it was confirmed that a Department of Public Safety helicopter and the Air Force have joined in the search for the missing plane and it's occupants.  

The area being searched is 15-20 miles northeast of Panguitch. The mountainous area there is divided between both Iron and Garfield Counties. 

Dispatch confirmed the family of the occupants of the plane have been notified of the ongoing search. It has not been confirmed how many people were on board. 


PANGUITCH — A search has been launched in a wooded area on the border of Iron and Garfield counties for a missing plane carrying a Sandy father and his two children.

The plane disappeared before 9 a.m. Sunday, roughly 17 miles northwest of Panguitch near Sandy Peak and Little Creek Peak, according to police.

Relatives and friends gathering at the family's home in Sandy confirmed that Randall "Randy" Wells was flying back from a wedding in Phoenix when his plane disappeared Sunday. His two young children, 8-year-old Asher and 3-year-old Sara, were also aboard.

The gathering at the Wells home was emotional as the growing group offered support to one another and hopes of expanding the search effort.

Wells is the bishop of the Mount Jordan 3rd Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wells was due back at 10 p.m. Saturday, according to Ryan Kitterman, a family friend. Wells' phone last pinged near Panguitch about 11 p.m., Kitterman said.

Kitterman said Wells' plane was equipped with an emergency location transmitter. The family hopes Wells managed to land the plane somewhere and that the father and children are safe, he said.

Searchers from six counties were looking for the plane Sunday, the family said, with additional resources potentially coming from New Mexico if the search continues into Monday.


The bodies of a Mormon bishop from Sandy and his two children were found Monday after their plane crashed in rural southwestern Utah.

Randall Wells, who oversaw the LDS Church's Mount Jordan 3rd Ward — along with his 8-year-old son, Asher, and 3-year-old daughter, Sarah — died when their single-engine Cessna 172 went down over the weekend near Iron County's line with Garfield County, authorities said. They were the only three people on board.

"It's confirmed," said Garfield County sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Dastrup. "No survivors."

Wells leaves behind a wife, Kristin Wells, who, according to a fundraising page, is 20 weeks pregnant and found out last week that she is expecting a baby girl.

Her husband "was an avid outdoorsman who loved laughing and was an amazing father to his two children and a loving husband," the page says. "Randy was a beacon in the community. ... Kristin is now tasked with the heartbreaking job of planning three funerals at once."

Wells' family and friends were among those who helped with the search Monday. Many from the search party returned home and went directly to the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse, where members of the ward he oversaw joined in prayer for his widow about 5 p.m.

Wendy Davis, a member of his ward, said she thought of Wells as "my friend first and my bishop second."

He was a quiet, humble man, she said, who taught powerful lessons. Wells could sense when a person needed to talk, Davis added, sometimes "even before they did."

"I can't emphasize enough what a great guy he was," Davis said, remembering times when he'd stop by her family's home to chat or drop off vegetables from a community garden he kept, or drive around the neighborhood to check on the elderly.

The plane, initially spotted from the air at 11:05 a.m. Monday, was reached at about 11:50 a.m. by search-and-rescue ground crews.

Dastrup did not have details on the aircraft's location, other than it had been spotted in the lower Bear Valley on the Iron County side of the county line with Garfield.

Authorities said the bodies were expected to remain at the scene of the crash until late in the day as the crash site was secured.

The plane had taken off Saturday from a Phoenix airport en route to Salt Lake County, Dastrup said.

The aircraft disappeared about 17 miles northwest of Wilson Peak about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Ground and air search efforts on Sunday focused on the Little Creek and Little Creek Peak areas, along the Garfield-Iron County line, about 15 miles east of Parowan.

More than 100 searchers — on foot, horseback, ATVs, snowmobiles, and in helicopters and airplanes above — were looking for the plane, Dastrup said, including crews from Garfield, Iron, Sevier and Piute counties.

Bishops in the LDS Church serve as lay leaders of Mormon wards, or congregations, and tend to their members' spiritual and temporal needs. 


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