Sunday, February 26, 2017

Cessna 172H, N3712F, registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot: Fatal accident occurred February 25, 2017 in Panguitch, Garfield County, Utah


 Asher Wells (age 8) and Sarah Wells (age 3)


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 Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N3712F


Randy Wells with his two children Asher (age 8) and Sarah (age 3).

Randy's father Marion says his son loved to fly. "There's a lot of pilots in the family," said Marion. And family meant everything to Randy. "He loved his wife and he loved his kids," said Marion. Marion says that Randy took his kids everywhere: from camping to flying to trips around the neighborhood to check on the disabled and elderly members of the ward. "His son Asher was as enthusiastic about flying as Randy was," said Marion. In late February 2017, Randy took his two kids flying to Phoenix. His wife stayed home because she is pregnant. "He wanted to take his kids down there, so that they could visit with their cousins," said Marion. On February 25, 2017 at night, on the return trip home from Phoenix, the plane Randy was flying crashed.
~

Aviation Accident Factual Report -  National Transportation Safety Board

Location: Panguitch, UT
Accident Number: WPR17FA065
Date & Time: 02/25/2017, 2040 MST
Registration: N3712F
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

Analysis 

The noninstrument-rated private pilot was making a 220-nautical mile (nm) cross-country flight under visual flight rules over mountainous terrain in dark night instrument meteorological conditions. Radar data revealed that the airplane was flying in a northwest direction, proceeding en route between 9,100 ft and 9,900 ft mean sea level (msl). The last radar return, which occurred about 1 hour after takeoff, showed that the airplane was about 80 nm northwest of the departure airport and about 3 nm southeast of the accident site. A short time later the airplane impacted remote, snow-covered, mountainous terrain on a southwest heading at an elevation of 7,350 ft. The changes in heading and altitude between the end of the radar data and the impact suggest that the pilot began maneuvering the airplane after radar contact was lost. A survey of the accident site revealed that the damage to the airplane and the linear debris path was consistent with controlled flight into terrain. All airplane components necessary for flight were accounted for at the accident site. Additionally, a post-accident examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal evidence of any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

Weather surveillance radar revealed an area of snow showers over the accident site, and an infrared satellite image depicted a band of low stratiform clouds over the accident site with tops near 14,000 ft msl. The cloud bases were estimated at 8,700 ft msl. A meteorological impact statement for the area warned of marginal visual flight rules to instrument flight rules conditions in snow showers. Dark nighttime conditions existed with no illumination of the moon at the time of the accident. The area surrounding the accident site was uninhabited, and there would have been no ground lighting visible to the pilot. It is likely that the airplane encountered instrument meteorological conditions (the band of clouds), and the pilot descended and turned to exit the cloud layer but was unable to establish visual contact with the ground before impacting terrain in the dark nighttime conditions.

There was no record of the pilot getting an official weather briefing. If he had gotten a briefing, he would have been told "VFR not recommended" and this may have prevented the accident. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's continued visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing to the accident were the pilot's inadequate preflight weather planning and his poor decision-making.

Findings

Personnel issues
Identification/recognition - Pilot (Cause)
Incorrect action selection - Pilot (Cause)
Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Factor)
Weather planning - Pilot (Factor)

Environmental issues
Below VFR minima - Decision related to condition (Cause)
Below VFR minima - Effect on operation (Cause)
Dark - Effect on operation (Cause)
Mountainous/hilly terrain - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute-cruise
VFR encounter with IMC (Defining event)

Maneuvering
Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)

On February 25, 2017, about 2040 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172H, N3712F, was substantially damaged during 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. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight that was being conducted under visual flight rules. The flight departed Page Municipal Airport (PGA), Page, Arizona, about 1930, with a destination of South Valley Regional Airport (U42), Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to a pilot-rated friend of the family, who resided in the same community as the accident pilot, reported that the pilot initially departed Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA), Phoenix, Arizona, during the late afternoon on the day of the accident. At 1849, he texted the pilot and asked him how the flight back was going. The pilot replied at 1852, and advised him that he had just landed at PGA and was in the process of getting fuel, to which the friend asked how the weather was? At 1854, the pilot responded that it was ok, cloudy, followed by asking his friend how the weather was at his destination. The friend replied, "Cloudy. You good in the dark with the clouds?" There was no immediate response from the pilot. At 1903, the friend asked the pilot if he was going to Kanab then Beaver, then up [Interstate Highway] I-15 for more city lights to follow?' Eight minutes later at 1911, the pilot replied, "I'm thinking of Bryce Canyon, then Richfield, then I-15 on up. How low are the clouds?" About 2 minutes later the friend informed the pilot, "To the east of my house they are all low. Low by the base of the mountain, but out to the west they are higher." Again, there was no immediate response from the pilot. About 8 minutes later at 1921, the friend queried the pilot by asking, "What does the AWC weather briefing say?" The pilot did not respond. At 1923, the friend informed the pilot, "My radar app shows weather over Tropic, but light and some over by Beaver. Nothing bad." At 1924, the pilot replied, "That's what I'm seeing too. I'm just going to stay over the highways." Eight minutes later at 1932, the friend commented, "That's what I like. Follow the light[s]. Keep me posted." The pilot did not respond. At 1940, after another 8 minutes had elapsed, the friend asked the pilot how it was going, to which there was no response; the last communication the pilot's friend received from that pilot was at 1924.

In a statement provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), a PGA fixed-based operator line foreman reported that, at 1850, the pilot called and requested after-hours fuel. The line foreman stated that he arrived at 1900 and topped off both fuel tanks with 18.3 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. The foreman further stated that, after he had completed the fueling, he noticed that the pilot looked very tired. The foreman asked the two passengers if they wanted to lie down for a while. However, they declined and said that they wanted to get home. The foreman told the pilot that there was a place where they could lie down, but the pilot declined the offer. The pilot then loaded the airplane and left the FBO at 1918.

A review of recorded radar data identified the airplane at 1939:30 about 2.3 nm northwest of PGA, proceeding on a northwest heading at 5,400 ft mean sea level (msl). The flight continued to proceed northwest and climbed to an en route cruise altitude between 9,100 ft msl and 9,900 ft msl. The last radar return occurred at 2038:38, about 80 nm northwest of PGA, 160 nm south of U42, and about 2.85 nm southeast of the accident site at an altitude of 9,600 ft msl. The airplane subsequently impacted mountainous terrain in dark night conditions.

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 at 0509 on February 26. Search and rescue operations began but were suspended later in the day with no sightings of the wreckage reported. About 1100 on February 27, search and rescue operations located the wreckage. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 41, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/01/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  176.9 hours (Total, all aircraft), 120 hours (Total, this make and model), 113 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 6.1 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating. He was issued a third-class FAA medical certificate, which was issued on September 18, 2015, with no limitations.

A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accumulated a total of 176.9 hours of flight time as of December 29, 2016, which was the date of the last logbook entry. Additionally, the pilot had logged 113 hours as pilot-in-command, 65.3 hours of cross-country flight time, 10.5 hours of night flight time, and 120 hours of flight in the same make and model as the accident airplane. Additionally, the pilot's logbook revealed that he had flown about 6 hours within the preceding 90 days, with no time recorded in the last 30 days. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N3712F
Model/Series: 172 H
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17255207
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/14/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 133 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 7372.64 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Continental Motors
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300-D
Registered Owner: Carl L. Wengel
Rated Power: 145
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane was a four-place, high-wing, single-engine, 1966 Cessna 172H, serial number 17255207. It was powered by a 145-horsepower Continental O-300-D six-cylinder reciprocating engine, serial number 34931-D-6-D, and equipped with a two-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller.

Maintenance records indicated that the most recent annual inspection was completed on April 14, 2016, at a recorded tachometer time of 7,239.75 hours, a recorded engine total time of 6,678.87 hours, and 1,577.14 hours since its last major overhaul. The last maintenance entry was dated October 8, 2016, at a tachometer time of 7,334.27 hours. The entry indicated that a new oil sump gasket was installed after troubleshooting an oil leak. The tachometer indicated 7,372.64 hours at the time of the accident. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: U55, 6763 ft msl
Observation Time: 2059 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 153°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3900 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: -3°C / -6°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 4800 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Light and Variable, 40°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Page, AZ (PGA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:  None
Destination:Salt Lake City, UT (U42)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1918 MST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 2000 on February 25, 2017, depicted a stationary front located across central Arizona with a high-pressure system over northern Utah. The accident site was located north of the front in an area with a weak pressure gradient. The surrounding station models over Utah indicated light north and west winds with variable cloud conditions from overcast to clear skies, and one station to the northwest of the accident site reporting light continuous snow.

Weather surveillance radar revealed an area of snow showers over the accident site, and an infrared satellite image depicted a band of low stratiform clouds over the accident site with tops near 14,000 ft msl. The cloud bases were estimated at 8,700 ft msl.

A NWS composite radar image for 2040 depicted several clusters of very light intensity echoes over southern Utah, which were consistent with snow showers. An area of echoes of very light intensity was located immediately east of the accident site and north of the departure airport. The presence of the echoes was consistent with an area of clouds and restricted visibility along the route of flight and potential localized mountain obscuration conditions.

The NWS's Center Weather Service Unit at the Salt Lake City air traffic control center (ZLC) issued a meteorological impact statement at 1136 that was valid until 2100. The statement was applicable to the accident area and indicated widespread marginal visual flight rules/instrument flight rules conditions in snow with low ceilings and visibility, and gusty surface winds in the northern ZLC area. These conditions were forecast to spread south and east through the afternoon and into Sunday night.

The Panguitch Municipal Airport (U55) was located about 12 nm south-southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 6,763 ft msl and had an automated weather observation system (AWOS) that broadcast weather locally. The observation issued immediately after the accident was as follows:

Panguitch weather at 2059, automated, wind from 040° at 3 knots (kts), visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 3,900 ft above ground level (agl), overcast ceiling at 4,800 ft agl, temperature -3°C, dew point -6°C, and altimeter 29.99 inches of mercury.

At 2053, the weather reporting station at the Bryce Canyon Airport (BCE), Bryce Canyon, Utah, located about 28 nm southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 7,590 ft msl, reported wind 250° at 5 kts, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature -7°C, dew point -6°C, and altimeter 29.87 inches of mercury.

At 2040, the weather reporting station at the Milford Municipal Airport (MLF), Milford, Utah, located about 40 nm north-northwest of the accident site at an elevation of 5,042 ft msl, reported wind 350° at 10 kts, visibility 9 statute miles, light snow showers, few clouds at 2,200 ft agl, overcast clouds at 4,000 ft agl, temperature -2°C, dew point -4°C, and altimeter 29.95 inches of mercury.

Astronomical data from the United States Naval Observatory for Panguitch on February 25 indicated that sunset was at 1821, and the end of civil twilight was at 1847. Moonrise was at 0711, and moonset was at 1842. At the time of the accident at 2049, both the sun and moon were more than 15° below the horizon and provided no illumination.

The investigation found no evidence that the pilot had received a weather briefing before departing from PGA for the flight to U42. 




Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  38.007222, -112.499444 

On the morning of February 28, 2017, investigators from the NTSB 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 snow-covered mountainous terrain in a nose-low attitude on a southwest heading at an elevation of about 7,358 ft msl. The airplane subsequently came to rest in a ravine about 206 ft from the initial point of impact at an elevation of about 7,237 ft msl. The airplane was severely fragmented and deformed during the accident sequence. Onsite documentation was hampered by the snow-covered terrain, as well as active snow showers throughout the day. All necessary components for flight were accounted for at the accident site.

The accident site was characterized by sparse vegetation, and there were no close inhabited dwellings.

The fuselage was observed in many sections with both wings separated from the fuselage. The empennage was observed with all flight controls attached. All flight control cables were accounted for at the accident site. There was no evidence of postcrash fire.

Airplane and engine components observed in the initial debris path consisted of the engine's carburetor, the left door post, the right wingtip, the nose landing gear strut, and the intake air box. Additional components identified about halfway down the debris field included the nose landing gear wheel/tire, part of the engine cowling, magneto assembly, and part of an aileron. The last third of the debris field included the left cabin door, a main landing gear wheel/tire, the emergency locator transmitter, a fuel tank, and the engine. The propeller was located about 135 ft west of the main wreckage site. The outboard section of the left wing was located about 25 ft east of the main wreckage. The left fuel gauge was reading off-scale high, and the right gauge was reading just above one-half tank full.

The wreckage was recovered to a secured salvage facility for further examination, which revealed the following information.

The cabin and cockpit areas were both destroyed by impact forces during the accident sequence.

The left wing sustained impact damage throughout its span with the outboard 4 ft having separated during the impact sequence. The wing strut remained attached to the wing but separated from the fuselage and was observed bent due to impact forces. The left flap was bent and twisted and remained attached to the wing's trailing edge at all attach points. The flap was observed in the up/retracted position. The left aileron, which was bent and twisted, remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points. The left fuel tank was destroyed by impact forces. The left fuel cap was not observed. The left elevator remained attached to the left horizontal stabilizer at all attach points. The inboard trailing edge of the left elevator was bent up slightly, and the outboard section was slightly wrinkled. The leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the fuselage and was deformed through its span.

The right wing remained attached to the fuselage by a small amount of metal skin. The top half of the wing strut remained attached to the wing, and the bottom half was separated from the fuselage attach point. The flap remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points, and the inboard section was bent down about 90°. The right aileron, which was bent, twisted, and mangled, was separated from the wing's trailing edge. The right fuel tank cap was intact and tight to movement. The right fuel tank was breached with leading edge impact damage and aft crushing. The right elevator remained attached to the trailing edge of the right horizontal stabilizer at all attach points with minor damage observed. The right elevator trim tab remained attached to the hinge points of the right elevator at all attach points. The tab was observed in the neutral position and slightly damaged at mid-span. The right horizontal stabilizer's outboard 2 ft were crushed aft with the top and bottom surfaces wrinkled; it remained attached to the aft fuselage.

The vertical stabilizer had separated in an upward motion from the aft fuselage. The lower 18 inches of the stabilizer was impact damaged, and the top portion was wrinkled.

The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer at all attach points and sustained only minor damage.

Both the left and right main landing gear remained attached to the fuselage at all attach points. Both gear sustained impact damage during the accident sequence.

Aileron cables were attached to the right and left aileron bellcranks. The aileron cables and chains were intact; however, the chains were off their respective sprockets. The elevator cables were attached at the elevator aft bellcrank, at the elevator, and at the forward elevator bellcrank. The push-pull rod from the bottom of the control column to the forward elevator bellcrank was separated at both ends; however, the attaching hardware was in place. The rudder cables were attached to the rudder bellcrank and to the rudder torque tubes. The rudder torque tubes were separated from the floorboard area. All flight control cables had numerous tension overload-type separations. The flap actuator was extended about 1 inch, which would place the flaps about 4° down.

Air was passed through the fuel selector valve. With the valve in the "BOTH" position, the valve was functionally tested and functioned properly. The fuel selector handle was separated from the valve and was trapped in the "BOTH" position.

The engine separated from the airplane during the accident sequence. Several components separated from the engine, and a significant amount of mud was compacted into the engine. The magnetos were not recovered from the accident site. The vacuum pump separated and was not recovered. The mounting flange of the pump remained with the engine and was of the style indicating that a dry-type vacuum pump was installed. The carburetor bowl was removed and hydraulic damage, consistent with fuel in the carburetor at the time of impact, was noted to the brass floats.

One propeller blade, which was marked "A" by investigators, exhibited extreme leading edge damage at the tip accompanied by blade twisting. The other propeller blade, which was marked "B", exhibited both leading and trailing edge damage. After removal of the propeller spinner, several small drill holes of an undetermined depth were noted in the propeller hub. None of the observed holes exhibited cracking. The location of the holes was such that they may have been the result of someone stop-drilling cracks in the forward propeller spinner bulkhead plate and inadvertently drilling into the propeller.

The examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal evidence of any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
Medical And Pathological Information

The Office of the Medical Examiner, Utah Department of Health, Taylorsville, Utah, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The examination revealed that the cause of death was blunt force injures. Toxicology testing by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for all substances tested.



On February 25, 2017 Randy Wells was flying home from Phoenix, Arizona with his two children Asher (age 8) and Sarah (age 3).  Tragedy struck and the plane crashed near Panguitch, Utah. It is devastating news that no one survived the crash.  Kristin Wells is Randy's wife and the only surviving member of the family.  She is 20 weeks pregnant and just found out on February 20, 2017 she is expecting a baby girl. 


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.

 Asher Wells (age 8) and Sarah Wells (age 3)


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 Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:  https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N3712F


Randy Wells with his two children Asher (age 8) and Sarah (age 3).




Aviation Accident Factual Report -  National Transportation Safety Board

Location: Panguitch, UT
Accident Number: WPR17FA065
Date & Time: 02/25/2017, 2040 MST
Registration: N3712F
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Defining Event: VFR encounter with IMC
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On February 25, 2017, about 2040 mountain standard time, a Cessna 172H, N3712F, was substantially damaged during 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. The airplane was registered to a private individual and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Dark night instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight that was being conducted under visual flight rules. The flight departed Page Municipal Airport (PGA), Page, Arizona, about 1930, with a destination of South Valley Regional Airport (U42), Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to a pilot-rated friend of the family, who resided in the same community as the accident pilot, reported that the pilot initially departed Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA), Phoenix, Arizona, during the late afternoon on the day of the accident. At 1849, he texted the pilot and asked him how the flight back was going. The pilot replied at 1852, and advised him that he had just landed at PGA and was in the process of getting fuel, to which the friend asked how the weather was? At 1854, the pilot responded that it was ok, cloudy, followed by asking his friend how the weather was at his destination. The friend replied, "Cloudy. You good in the dark with the clouds?" There was no immediate response from the pilot. At 1903, the friend asked the pilot if he was going to Kanab then Beaver, then up [Interstate Highway] I-15 for more city lights to follow?' Eight minutes later at 1911, the pilot replied, "I'm thinking of Bryce Canyon, then Richfield, then I-15 on up. How low are the clouds?" About 2 minutes later the friend informed the pilot, "To the east of my house they are all low. Low by the base of the mountain, but out to the west they are higher." Again, there was no immediate response from the pilot. About 8 minutes later at 1921, the friend queried the pilot by asking, "What does the AWC weather briefing say?" The pilot did not respond. At 1923, the friend informed the pilot, "My radar app shows weather over Tropic, but light and some over by Beaver. Nothing bad." At 1924, the pilot replied, "That's what I'm seeing too. I'm just going to stay over the highways." Eight minutes later at 1932, the friend commented, "That's what I like. Follow the light[s]. Keep me posted." The pilot did not respond. At 1940, after another 8 minutes had elapsed, the friend asked the pilot how it was going, to which there was no response; the last communication the pilot's friend received from that pilot was at 1924.

In a statement provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), a PGA fixed-based operator line foreman reported that, at 1850, the pilot called and requested after-hours fuel. The line foreman stated that he arrived at 1900 and topped off both fuel tanks with 18.3 gallons of 100LL aviation fuel. The foreman further stated that, after he had completed the fueling, he noticed that the pilot looked very tired. The foreman asked the two passengers if they wanted to lie down for a while. However, they declined and said that they wanted to get home. The foreman told the pilot that there was a place where they could lie down, but the pilot declined the offer. The pilot then loaded the airplane and left the FBO at 1918.

A review of recorded radar data identified the airplane at 1939:30 about 2.3 nm northwest of PGA, proceeding on a northwest heading at 5,400 ft mean sea level (msl). The flight continued to proceed northwest and climbed to an en route cruise altitude between 9,100 ft msl and 9,900 ft msl. The last radar return occurred at 2038:38, about 80 nm northwest of PGA, 160 nm south of U42, and about 2.85 nm southeast of the accident site at an altitude of 9,600 ft msl. The airplane subsequently impacted mountainous terrain in dark night conditions.

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 at 0509 on February 26. Search and rescue operations began but were suspended later in the day with no sightings of the wreckage reported. About 1100 on February 27, search and rescue operations located the wreckage. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 41, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 09/01/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  176.9 hours (Total, all aircraft), 120 hours (Total, this make and model), 113 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 6.1 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 2 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a single-engine land airplane rating. The pilot did not hold an instrument rating. He was issued a third-class FAA medical certificate, which was issued on September 18, 2015, with no limitations.

A review of the pilot's logbook revealed that he had accumulated a total of 176.9 hours of flight time as of December 29, 2016, which was the date of the last logbook entry. Additionally, the pilot had logged 113 hours as pilot-in-command, 65.3 hours of cross-country flight time, 10.5 hours of night flight time, and 120 hours of flight in the same make and model as the accident airplane. Additionally, the pilot's logbook revealed that he had flown about 6 hours within the preceding 90 days, with no time recorded in the last 30 days. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N3712F
Model/Series: 172 H
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1966
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 17255207
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/14/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.:
Time Since Last Inspection: 133 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 7372.64 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Continental Motors
ELT: C91  installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300-D
Registered Owner: Carl L. Wengel
Rated Power: 145
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

The airplane was a four-place, high-wing, single-engine, 1966 Cessna 172H, serial number 17255207. It was powered by a 145-horsepower Continental O-300-D six-cylinder reciprocating engine, serial number 34931-D-6-D, and equipped with a two-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller.

Maintenance records indicated that the most recent annual inspection was completed on April 14, 2016, at a recorded tachometer time of 7,239.75 hours, a recorded engine total time of 6,678.87 hours, and 1,577.14 hours since its last major overhaul. The last maintenance entry was dated October 8, 2016, at a tachometer time of 7,334.27 hours. The entry indicated that a new oil sump gasket was installed after troubleshooting an oil leak. The tachometer indicated 7,372.64 hours at the time of the accident. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: U55, 6763 ft msl
Observation Time: 2059 MST
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 153°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3900 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: -3°C / -6°C
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 4800 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Light and Variable, 40°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 29.99 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration:
Departure Point: Page, AZ (PGA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:  None
Destination:Salt Lake City, UT (U42)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1918 MST
Type of Airspace: Class G 

The National Weather Service (NWS) Surface Analysis Chart for 2000 on February 25, 2017, depicted a stationary front located across central Arizona with a high-pressure system over northern Utah. The accident site was located north of the front in an area with a weak pressure gradient. The surrounding station models over Utah indicated light north and west winds with variable cloud conditions from overcast to clear skies, and one station to the northwest of the accident site reporting light continuous snow.

Weather surveillance radar revealed an area of snow showers over the accident site, and an infrared satellite image depicted a band of low stratiform clouds over the accident site with tops near 14,000 ft msl. The cloud bases were estimated at 8,700 ft msl.

A NWS composite radar image for 2040 depicted several clusters of very light intensity echoes over southern Utah, which were consistent with snow showers. An area of echoes of very light intensity was located immediately east of the accident site and north of the departure airport. The presence of the echoes was consistent with an area of clouds and restricted visibility along the route of flight and potential localized mountain obscuration conditions.

The NWS's Center Weather Service Unit at the Salt Lake City air traffic control center (ZLC) issued a meteorological impact statement at 1136 that was valid until 2100. The statement was applicable to the accident area and indicated widespread marginal visual flight rules/instrument flight rules conditions in snow with low ceilings and visibility, and gusty surface winds in the northern ZLC area. These conditions were forecast to spread south and east through the afternoon and into Sunday night.

The Panguitch Municipal Airport (U55) was located about 12 nm south-southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 6,763 ft msl and had an automated weather observation system (AWOS) that broadcast weather locally. The observation issued immediately after the accident was as follows:

Panguitch weather at 2059, automated, wind from 040° at 3 knots (kts), visibility 10 statute miles, few clouds at 3,900 ft above ground level (agl), overcast ceiling at 4,800 ft agl, temperature -3°C, dew point -6°C, and altimeter 29.99 inches of mercury.

At 2053, the weather reporting station at the Bryce Canyon Airport (BCE), Bryce Canyon, Utah, located about 28 nm southeast of the accident site at an elevation of 7,590 ft msl, reported wind 250° at 5 kts, visibility 10 statute miles, sky clear, temperature -7°C, dew point -6°C, and altimeter 29.87 inches of mercury.

At 2040, the weather reporting station at the Milford Municipal Airport (MLF), Milford, Utah, located about 40 nm north-northwest of the accident site at an elevation of 5,042 ft msl, reported wind 350° at 10 kts, visibility 9 statute miles, light snow showers, few clouds at 2,200 ft agl, overcast clouds at 4,000 ft agl, temperature -2°C, dew point -4°C, and altimeter 29.95 inches of mercury.

Astronomical data from the United States Naval Observatory for Panguitch on February 25 indicated that sunset was at 1821, and the end of civil twilight was at 1847. Moonrise was at 0711, and moonset was at 1842. At the time of the accident at 2049, both the sun and moon were more than 15° below the horizon and provided no illumination.

The investigation found no evidence that the pilot had received a weather briefing before departing from PGA for the flight to U42. 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  38.007222, -112.499444 

On the morning of February 28, 2017, investigators from the NTSB 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 snow-covered mountainous terrain in a nose-low attitude on a southwest heading at an elevation of about 7,358 ft msl. The airplane subsequently came to rest in a ravine about 206 ft from the initial point of impact at an elevation of about 7,237 ft msl. The airplane was severely fragmented and deformed during the accident sequence. Onsite documentation was hampered by the snow-covered terrain, as well as active snow showers throughout the day. All necessary components for flight were accounted for at the accident site.

The accident site was characterized by sparse vegetation, and there were no close inhabited dwellings.

The fuselage was observed in many sections with both wings separated from the fuselage. The empennage was observed with all flight controls attached. All flight control cables were accounted for at the accident site. There was no evidence of postcrash fire.

Airplane and engine components observed in the initial debris path consisted of the engine's carburetor, the left door post, the right wingtip, the nose landing gear strut, and the intake air box. Additional components identified about halfway down the debris field included the nose landing gear wheel/tire, part of the engine cowling, magneto assembly, and part of an aileron. The last third of the debris field included the left cabin door, a main landing gear wheel/tire, the emergency locator transmitter, a fuel tank, and the engine. The propeller was located about 135 ft west of the main wreckage site. The outboard section of the left wing was located about 25 ft east of the main wreckage. The left fuel gauge was reading off-scale high, and the right gauge was reading just above one-half tank full.

The wreckage was recovered to a secured salvage facility for further examination, which revealed the following information.

The cabin and cockpit areas were both destroyed by impact forces during the accident sequence.

The left wing sustained impact damage throughout its span with the outboard 4 ft having separated during the impact sequence. The wing strut remained attached to the wing but separated from the fuselage and was observed bent due to impact forces. The left flap was bent and twisted and remained attached to the wing's trailing edge at all attach points. The flap was observed in the up/retracted position. The left aileron, which was bent and twisted, remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points. The left fuel tank was destroyed by impact forces. The left fuel cap was not observed. The left elevator remained attached to the left horizontal stabilizer at all attach points. The inboard trailing edge of the left elevator was bent up slightly, and the outboard section was slightly wrinkled. The leading edge of the left horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the fuselage and was deformed through its span.

The right wing remained attached to the fuselage by a small amount of metal skin. The top half of the wing strut remained attached to the wing, and the bottom half was separated from the fuselage attach point. The flap remained attached to the trailing edge of the wing at all attach points, and the inboard section was bent down about 90°. The right aileron, which was bent, twisted, and mangled, was separated from the wing's trailing edge. The right fuel tank cap was intact and tight to movement. The right fuel tank was breached with leading edge impact damage and aft crushing. The right elevator remained attached to the trailing edge of the right horizontal stabilizer at all attach points with minor damage observed. The right elevator trim tab remained attached to the hinge points of the right elevator at all attach points. The tab was observed in the neutral position and slightly damaged at mid-span. The right horizontal stabilizer's outboard 2 ft were crushed aft with the top and bottom surfaces wrinkled; it remained attached to the aft fuselage.

The vertical stabilizer had separated in an upward motion from the aft fuselage. The lower 18 inches of the stabilizer was impact damaged, and the top portion was wrinkled.

The rudder remained attached to the vertical stabilizer at all attach points and sustained only minor damage.

Both the left and right main landing gear remained attached to the fuselage at all attach points. Both gear sustained impact damage during the accident sequence.

Aileron cables were attached to the right and left aileron bellcranks. The aileron cables and chains were intact; however, the chains were off their respective sprockets. The elevator cables were attached at the elevator aft bellcrank, at the elevator, and at the forward elevator bellcrank. The push-pull rod from the bottom of the control column to the forward elevator bellcrank was separated at both ends; however, the attaching hardware was in place. The rudder cables were attached to the rudder bellcrank and to the rudder torque tubes. The rudder torque tubes were separated from the floorboard area. All flight control cables had numerous tension overload-type separations. The flap actuator was extended about 1 inch, which would place the flaps about 4° down.

Air was passed through the fuel selector valve. With the valve in the "BOTH" position, the valve was functionally tested and functioned properly. The fuel selector handle was separated from the valve and was trapped in the "BOTH" position.

The engine separated from the airplane during the accident sequence. Several components separated from the engine, and a significant amount of mud was compacted into the engine. The magnetos were not recovered from the accident site. The vacuum pump separated and was not recovered. The mounting flange of the pump remained with the engine and was of the style indicating that a dry-type vacuum pump was installed. The carburetor bowl was removed and hydraulic damage, consistent with fuel in the carburetor at the time of impact, was noted to the brass floats.

One propeller blade, which was marked "A" by investigators, exhibited extreme leading edge damage at the tip accompanied by blade twisting. The other propeller blade, which was marked "B", exhibited both leading and trailing edge damage. After removal of the propeller spinner, several small drill holes of an undetermined depth were noted in the propeller hub. None of the observed holes exhibited cracking. The location of the holes was such that they may have been the result of someone stop-drilling cracks in the forward propeller spinner bulkhead plate and inadvertently drilling into the propeller.

The examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal evidence of any mechanical anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.
Medical And Pathological Information

The Office of the Medical Examiner, Utah Department of Health, Taylorsville, Utah, performed an autopsy on the pilot. The examination revealed that the cause of death was blunt force injures. Toxicology testing by the FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was negative for all substances tested.



On February 25, 2017 Randy Wells was flying home from Phoenix, Arizona with his two children Asher (age 8) and Sarah (age 3).  Tragedy struck and the plane crashed near Panguitch, Utah. It is devastating news that no one survived the crash.  Kristin Wells is Randy's wife and the only surviving member of the family.  She is 20 weeks pregnant and just found out last week she is expecting a baby girl. 



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.




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.”


Source:  https://www.lakepowelllife.com

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


Source:  http://fox13now.com



[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. 

[UPDATE]

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. 

Source:  http://www.good4utah.com

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.

Source:  http://www.deseretnews.com

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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