Sunday, July 26, 2020

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N716RL: Fatal accident occurred July 25, 2020 near Stinson Municipal Airport (KSSF), San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas

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

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Antonio, Texas 

Aircraft crashed in a field under unknown circumstances.

Date: 25-JUL-20
Time: 14:12:00Z
Regis#: N716RL
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA28
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Operation: 91
State: TEXAS

San Antonio – The widow of a veteran who died in a South Side plane crash is remembering the love of her life as a kind and gentle man. That man, Simon David Willett, 55, was killed after the plane he was flying in crash landed in someone’s backyard.

Emelie Willett, his wife, said he genuinely had a good soul.

She said he was born in Birmingham, England and moved to Hawaii when he was 6-years-old. From there, he went to school, joined the Air Force, and after seven years of service, worked for the VA for 32-plus years.

“He would drop everything to be anywhere someone needed him to be,” Emelie Willett said. “He was an amazing man. It was funny because he tried to be stern but his demeanor was always to make people laugh. He was a mentor and had so many people who admired him. He was a loving person.”

Simon Willett was a goofy character.

“He was Star Wars freak and a Sci-Fi buff and a big Dr. Who fan,” Emelie Willett said. “People just saw a light in him that they just wanted to follow... He wanted to be Vader. It was so funny. He would actually walk down the halls in hospitals with a black cape on, every so often with his suit on, just to make somebody smile.”

She said he also loved everything to do with flying.

“He had the spirit of a child,” Emelie Willett said. “Him and his best friend were into Flight Sim. There was nothing about airplanes that they did not love. They were like 12-year-old boys when they got together or got online and started playing Flight Sim. He knew everything about planes. Every type of plane you could imagine.”

Emelie said Simon was actually taking steps to get his pilot’s license when the crash happened.

“This was supposed to be a discovery flight where he wanted to see if that instructor was the right one to help him earn his pilot’s license,” Emelie Willett said. “I can’t be mad because it was his passion and that is the one thing he alway encouraged in me was to do whatever I wanted to do and loved to do and that is the one thing I would never stop him from doing.”

She said the crash was so bad, she had to provide dental records to the medical examiner so they could identify him.

“Everything was burned,” Emelie Willett said. “There was nothing there to recognize. The FAA took over the investigation and I did get a call from a couple of investigators. They gave me preliminary details but couldn’t confirm them just yet. They did tell me it was one of two things that happened. They said that the engine was having issues keeping altitude and the second could have possibly been an overweight issue. My husband’s best friend is like a 6′4 big guy and my husband wasn’t a tiny man either. I told them, by all means, I don’t want to hold anyone responsible. I would just like to know why.”

She said she was at work when she got the devastating call.

“I was at work at my early shift Saturday morning and I knew what he was getting up to do that morning,” Emelie Willett said. “I was training someone at work and I was driving when I answered the phone. I hear this officer say, ‘This is officer so and so. Is this Emelie Willett?’ I said, ‘Hold that thought. I am driving and I need to pull over.’ I had a feeling where this was going. As soon as he said there has been an accident, I knew he did not walk away from this. In my heart I already knew it. Even if I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I knew,” she said through tears.

Emelie said they told her to go to the Brooke Army Medical Center because that was where they were taking the bodies.

“In every part of my being, I thought my husband was one of those bodies,” Emelie Willett said. “I spent half the day in misery there thinking my husband was one of the men on the bed suffering, not knowing he was the one who passed away.”

After realizing her husband was gone, Emelie said she had several emotions.

“You know, you got through so many different things,” Emelie Willett said. “Anger, thankfulness because I know he would not have had a quality of life if he was suffering on a bed.”

She said his best friend, who is one of the survivors of the plane crash, is still in the hospital.

“His family has been staying in touch with me,” Emelie said. “He has been in an induced coma and on dialysis so his kidneys don’t go into shock so the rest of him can heal. Today he got his third surgery to get rid of the burned flesh. Next week, if he still holds stable, they will start doing skin grafts... If anything, my husband would gladly give his life over and over again to make sure he walks out of that hospital so he can spend the rest of his life with his family.”

Emelie, who like Simon, had failed marriages in the past, said Simon showed her what true love really was.

“You are capable of having a relationship with an individual and want to actually go home to somebody and he was my sanctuary,” Emelie said. “This place was his sanctuary and he was my sanctuary. Five and a half years of marriage and we only had one argument. We had so many plans. He was able to retire on his birthday in May. We were going to be traveling. We had our passports and he wanted me to go to Hawaii to see where grew up. He wanted me to go Birmingham, England. We had so many plans and I just thought I had more time.”

Emelie said she is ready to get back to work so she can take her mind off of this loss.

“He made life beautiful and if I don’t at least carry on, I would be doing little justice to what he gave me when he was alive,” Emelie said. “He was about the little details. Everywhere I look, he is in all the little details and he will always be.”

She is now raising money for funeral expenses. To honor him, she said she plans to have a memorial and a lantern release on the Medina Lake starting at 6 p.m.

“I plan to have him cremated and since he loved Hawaii so much, I am thinking about taking his ashes there to release them. I would just encourage everyone to enjoy your life, love who you love and don’t hold any grudges. Love with all of your heart because you never know.”

San Antonio – A couple riding their bikes early Saturday morning are urging people to be prepared to help others, no matter how helpless a situation may be. This call to action comes after a plane crashed on the South Side, killing one and injuring two others.

“We were riding our bikes crossing over 410 South when we see smoke,” said Veronica Salas. “I said, ‘It is a fire!’ He (Michael Urdiales) thought it was a just a plane throwing out smoke but I told him it was a fire.”

The couple decided to get closer to the scene and when they did, they saw the unexpected.

“There was this big guy and he was like, ‘I am burning!’ I looked over and there is another gentlemen sitting on the ground,” Salas said. “They were both blistered up and they both didn’t have any hair. Their hands were crazy. It was all just a traumatic scene. It was like a scary movie because you had these burned people and then you see this fire. The guy is like, ‘Just give me some water!’ So I got my water bottle and I am squeezing as much water out and I tell everybody else standing there to ‘get water please!’”

Urdiales said he didn’t know what could have possibly happened to have caused the injuries he was looking at.

“When we were riding, we didn’t hear anything,” Urdiales said. “We didn’t hear a bang or feel an explosion or nothing, so when I saw the men, I thought they were barbecuing and had accidentally put too much gas in the grill or something.”

The two soon learned that a plane had crashed and there was still another man inside of it.

“It was actually one of the victims who told me there was another man still inside the plane,” said Michael Urdiales, Salas’s boyfriend. “He was bleeding all over his face because he had a head injury but he was able to tell me where the plane was, which was in someone’s backyard.”

Urdiales said he was confused because so many people standing around were not trying to save the man.

“Someone said it in Spanish and was saying the plane was popping and that they thought it was going to explode,” Urdiales said. “I am guessing that is why nobody was back there trying to help. By that time, I didn’t know what I could do to help but I was going to at least try. If there was a possibility of saving him, I was going to try my best.”

He said when he found the plane, it was unrecognizable.

“The wreckage was so bad that it was a miracle the two other men made it out of it,” Urdiales said. “You couldn’t even tell it was plane. All you could see was the tail, so I am trying to vision this plane and I am like, ‘Where the heck could this guy be at?’ I am like, ‘I don’t know where the third person could be in this wreckage,’ and I finally see him and he is like laying on his back. His hand was up and it was melting.”

Urdiales said the heat was so extreme, he couldn’t get near the plane to remove the man’s body from the flames.

“It was a terrible situation to come up on when you finally realize he was gone. I was like, ‘Man, I was just too late to help him,’” Urdiales said. “That is the worst part. You are helpless. Once I saw him it was too late to help him. He was engulfed in fire. The fire was really, really intense.”

They said they believe the crash had happened seven to 10 minutes before they arrived.

“It was a surreal moment the fact that we were just a couple of cyclists who pulled over and saw all of this,” Salas said. “People were parked along the street. They were just parked there looking. We don’t know how long the fire could have been going but what breaks my heart is that no one went back there to help him. We feel like we didn’t do anything because by the time we got there, it was too late.”

Salas said it was a very emotional experience for her.

“Seeing him like that,” Salas said through tears. “He was somebody’s dad, somebody’s husband. He was somebody, you know, and I just hope that as bad as it was and as bad as he died that his soul is somewhere good because what I saw wasn’t good.”

They said first responders soon arrived on scene. They said they hope if another devastating incident such as this were to happen again, more people would step in to help as they did.

“I was just dumbfounded by the number of people who were just standing around not doing anything,” Urdiales said.

“That could have been your family member,” Salas said. “I couldn’t imagine if we could have been there earlier, could someone have helped them sooner. I would just encourage people to help. Be a human and pull over and help instead of looking. That is what you do. I didn’t want to see all that but I did because I wanted to help and that is what being a human being is. Don’t hold back. Help people the best you can do. Even if it seems small, sometimes simply asking them how can you help is helping people.”

SAN ANTONIO – The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office has identified the victim of a fatal plane crash that happened last weekend on the South Side.

The victim killed in the crash has been identified as Simon Willett, 56, according to the ME’s Office. Two others were hospitalized with severe burns following the incident.

The crash happened July 25th, at 9:10 a.m. in the 9400 block of Espada Road, near Stinson Municipal Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration and police said the Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee attempted to take off from San Antonio Stinson field and soon crash-landed behind a residence in a backyard area.


  1. Eyewitness: And it was having trouble in the air.
    It started spitting and stuttering and backfiring and popping. ...

    Reporter: He {the eyewitness} heard a loud pop, looked up, and saw this plane coming down in his neighbor's backyard. ...

    Eyewitness: And it exploded. When it exploded--about not even five seconds, and two guys were running away from the crash, on fire.

    title: 1 person dead, 2 others hospitalized after small aircraft crashes in San Antonio, authorities say
    by: KENS 5: Your San Antonio News Source
    date: Jul 25, 2020


  2. Crash was backyard of grey house at 9430 Espada Rd by comparing to news videos. Police are shown walking between yellow chain-gate posts, multiple news views match that house.

    Street view will display 9426 Espada Rd when you look from the road
    (See long link below for pre-selected street view of house front).

    Approximate location of wreckage:

    Yellow posts visible at 0:30 in news video:

    Long link for street view house front:,-98.4631784,3a,75y,83.83h,87.67t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sgZjuyvXUCMGg4TqZByRFqw!2e0!!7i16384!8i8192

  3. These are amazing words and the two people on bikes are heroes. Thank you for what you did.


    “I was just dumbfounded by the number of people who were just standing around not doing anything,” Urdiales said.

    “That could have been your family member,” Salas said. “I couldn’t imagine if we could have been there earlier, could someone have helped them sooner. I would just encourage people to help. Be a human and pull over and help instead of looking. That is what you do. I didn’t want to see all that but I did because I wanted to help and that is what being a human being is. Don’t hold back. Help people the best you can do. Even if it seems small, sometimes simply asking them how can you help is helping people.”

  4. Tail number is N716RL. A 1972 Cherokee 140.

  5. There is a donation drive set up for the pilot. He runs a flight instruction school with the Cherokee and three Cessna 150's.

    Fundraiser info says pilots burn injury is covering about 90% of his body. No word on how the surviving passenger is doing.

  6. This pilot has multiple FAA violations. Robert Cole Perguson is the owner and chief flight instructor at Valkyrie Aviation, San Antonio, Texas. This was a discovery flight and he was at the controls. One passenger died as a result and the other passenger is burnt severely. I knew this would happen one day. Won't be surprised if the probable cause is pilot error. There are three FAA safety reports that I have heard off. He is very famous at the FSDO for the wrong reasons. He scams students on a daily basis, robbing them of thousands of dollars. He doesn't care about safety. He pours water in the fuel tank, does maneuvers that the planes aren't certified for, flies overweight on a daily, asks pilots with no CFI certificate to train student pilots, doesn't conduct preflights etc. This seems to be an overweight issue. Allegedly he took off with full tanks, and two passengers. The NTSB will review his record I'm sure!

    1. Unhinged commenting on KR is disappointing. Seems like it may be the same originator authoring comment rants like the one above that makes absurd and illogical claims (pilot pours water in fuel tank, then flies the plane himself, etc).

    2. ^^^^ NTSB will accept your written statement that you observed:

      "He pours water in the fuel tanks to see how long it takes to sump."

      Time to step up, send that Email to:

    3. The FAA is aware of it. They were notified through the FAA Hotline reporting. The SA FSDO and DC office were notified in writing. I'm sure the NTSB will pull up all the hotline reports as part of their investigation. There is ample amount of proof in the FAA system itself. He was counselled by the FAA previously for violating the FARs. Since he is the chief flight instructor and owner of a part 61 school, there is not much oversight. He does as he pleases and is reckless. I have stepped up in the past to prevent this tragedy. I predicted this tragedy back in November in my FAA Hotline report and numerous, long, detailed emails to the FAA. He was only conselled, and here we are. It's time for the FAA to step up, and I pray the NTSB leaves no stone unturned, because if this issue isn't addressed the right way, it will continue. Guaranteed. I see aviation safety in a whole new light after attending this school. Major lessons learnt.

  7. He pours water in the fuel tanks to see how long it takes to sump. This isn't unhinged commenting. It's the truth. I have never seen anyone as cavalier as him in aviation. He has multiple FAA violations. You can ask Christian and Howard, who are the SA FSDO safety inspectors. It's shocking to hear, I get it, because you rarely meet people in aviation who have a complete disregard for safety. The FAA even grounded his planes because of poor/no maintenance. The FAA was notified that Robert flew the planes the very next day, despite the plane being grounded. How would I know? I went to this school, and was called in by the FAA for investigation. Multiple students were contacted. He sent his students to a DPE who used to take bribes too. The DPE's license thus got revoked. I can go on and on about safety issues that I noticed.

  8. I've heard some things about the pilot that I won't repeat. It's a sad story. The person who died has been identified as 56 year-old Simon Willett.

  9. Photo of the accident aircraft from May 2020:

  10. Im hearing thru the grapevine that the pilot has 3rd degree burns over 90% of his body with a 10% chance of survival. Allegedly a leg was amputated recently as well.

  11. This makes Cole Perguson a murderer by negligent homicide. Putting three large guys in a 150 HP plane is stupid and reckless. If the plane was full of fuel even more reckless. Cole is a fast talking loud mouth con-man that should never be allowed to fly again. I wouldn't believe the comment above about his condition. Cole is the type of snake that will run from a burning plane and let everyone else on board perish. I hope a good lawyer or the FAA will end his flying for good. He does not belong in the air.

    1. Robert Cole Perguson is a selfish person. There will be a wrongful death lawsuit coming. It's only a matter of time. This crash seems to be the result of pilot error, as all three passengers were heavy, and big built. Overweight aircraft for sure. If there were engine problems, it will be maintenance. The FAA asked him to bring them all his records to the FSDO, as they told me what they saw was scary. They even had to ground his planes. Knowing Robert, he probably took off with full fuel too. His excuse to the FAA this time will be that he isn't a morning person, which the FAA will just counsel him about.

  12. And he has the audacity to have a "gofundme" page for himself. What a jerk! What about a "gofundme" site for the people he maimed and murdered?

    1. I would imagine that with burns over 90% he himself was unable to set up the account ... Or even suggest the idea. Throw the rocks at someone else.

    2. It wasn't him that set it up. If you go to the gofundme it literally shows who set it up - family members.

    3. Robert's wife, Katarina, and his brother, Bryton, started the gofundme page. Katarina is as evil as Robert Cole Perguson. She commits organised crime with him daily and is his accomplice. Together they have scammed the poor students for $12000, $6000, $4000, $10000 etc. Where is all this money? These are the few cases I know, and there are many more. Many naive students don't even know that they have been ROBed. He has bought all four planes by scamming students. Even when the FAA counselled him, and invalidated all the training he gave to his students, he still kept all their money. He went on vacations and had a good time with their money. What goes around, comes around. The only people I feel bad for are the passengers, who trusted him to keep them safe. The truth will come out. Can't wait for the NTSB's final report. Robert Cole Perguson is a despicable human being. He removes all the reviews on various websites when you tell people the truth behind his operations. He sends all the people that go on discovery flights a link asking for a 5 star review after the flight. I learnt that good reviews mean nothing. These people don't know that when he is pouring water in the fuel tank to see how long it takes to sump, it's not ok. He gave other flying schools in the neighbourhood 1 star reviews when he opened his flight school. N3071S wasn't tied down by him before a storm. He lied to the insurance company and told them that it was. Insurance fraud is his gig too. Square, the card processor, doesn't work with him anymore and Pilot Financing, the lender, also doesn't work with him for a reason. Numerous students and instructors have left due to his poor attitude towards safety and his lack of integrity. The man doesn't even know how to fill a logbook. He has all the hazardous attitudes of flying except for resignation. This is why his license needs to be revoked permanently. He has a narc personality. The FAA was warned and all they did was counsel him. Why? Because they claim he was a 6/10 case when it came to safety liability. He got the Kelly Legal Group from Austin to represent him, and all they could do was lie to the FAA. Now that someone is dead, and the other is severely burnt, I'm sure the FAA will consider it a 10/10 case. The guy is training CFI students when its a limitation of his license. He is taking students on purpose to examiners who are taking bribes and the FAA then revoked the DPE's license. He cannot teach to save his life. I won't be surprised if Robert got his license from the same DPE because he cannot fly. He does spins and barrel rolls in aircrafts that are placarded - No spins/acrobatic maneuvers. It's right there in front of his eyes, but he said that the plane can handle much more than what it is placarded for. Some people aren't cut out for aviation. This crash reminds me of the Atlas Air Flight 3591 crash. There were systemic problems in both cases. Both pilots weren't cut out to fly, but they slipped through the cracks and managed to get their way into the cockpit. The FAA claims that the pilot bill of rights protected him, despite him having multiple safety violations. All they did was give him a slap on the wrist. Robert went back to his same ways, and I am sure the FAA did not oversee his operation. The FAA did not know of his school till a safety report came in. My question is who is overseeing the operations of part 61 flight schools like this where the owner itself is a safety liability. There is nobody to oversee him. The FAA did not act till two months after the report was made. They were made to follow through as the DC office was notified.

    4. Burn injuries are bad. Recovery is long, difficult and not assured. Family and friends of the pilot are not jerks for setting up a relief fund. Hate-filled comment posting just adds to the misery.

      One burned survivor has not been named, but finding the gofundme for the Simon Willett memorial only requires a simple search. Of course the ranting poster above is too busy disparaging the pilot to see if he can find and contribute a link that helps the other two that he ranted about.

      News story on Willett memorial:

  13. When you put profit before safety in aviation, there will be a mishap. The 737 Max accidents and this accident are perfect examples.

  14. To the guy doing all the complaining, you obviously have an axe to grind. Please stick to the actual proven facts rather than your opinions. The pilot may have well have serious flaws. But if you are smart you might be well advised to say nothing that you can not prove in a court of law because you could be held to account for your posts. By the sound of things you have an axe to grind and the plot will be very lucky to live, let alone ever fly again.

  15. Actually, I go to Stinson Field quite often and happen to be familiar with a good number of people who work at that airport. From what I know, this Robert Perguson guy bought crazy cheap junk aircraft for training use and ignores FAA regulations and safety measures. It is sad that the local FSDO never took real actions regarding those complaints and bad condition airplanes. This guy is the main cause of this accident but I believe the FSDO should be held accountable for doing nothing as well.

    1. Another post with the same "tells", repeating the same claims in the same writing style and with the same distinctive phrasing oddities.

      Ragging on the SA FSDO is unwise. A flight school attorney FOIA request for the FSDO files might find identically phrased complaint accusations matching what was put forth in these comments. If the FSDO determined that those accusations were unsupported, the school is being libeled and the FSDO is being unfairly portrayed.

      There was good advice given by EB. Time to stop grinding that axe.

  16. "husband’s best friend is like a 6′4 big guy and my husband wasn’t a tiny man either" wasn't obvious to his instructor !

  17. reporting that Cole Perguson and the 3rd passenger passed away.

  18. Just as a side note: this aircraft crashed less than 5 miles from Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), the United States Army's premier medical institution and a world-renowned burn treatment center.

    1. You might be confusing Lackland AFB with BAMC. BAMC is 14 miles from Stinson.

  19. Just reported the pilot and passenger have now passed away.