Sunday, June 20, 2021

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, N6323R: Fatal accident occurred June 17, 2021 in Rush Valley, Tooele County, Utah

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.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Salt Lake City, Utah
Piper Aircraft

Location: Rush Valley, UT 
Accident Number: WPR21FA231
Date & Time: June 17, 2021, 22:53 Local
Registration: N6323R
Aircraft: Piper PA-28-140 
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On June 17, 2021, about 2253 mountain daylight time, a Piper PA-28-140, N6323R, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Rush Valley, Utah. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight.

The accident flight was the second leg of an almost 1,000-mile cross-country trip from the pilot’s home airport of Havre City-County Airport (HVR), Havre, Montana, to El Centro NAF Airport (NJK), El Centro, California. The airplane departed HVR about 1600, and according to a friend of the pilot, the plan was to fly through the night, stop for fuel at Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA), in Idaho Falls, Idaho, then Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC), Cedar City, Utah, and eventually arrive in El Centro by 0600.

The pilot was traveling with her granddaughter, and the trip was planned as a Father’s Day surprise for the pilot’s father, who lived near El Centro. According to the friend, the pilot opted to fly overnight to avoid the heat and turbulence associated with flying over the desert, and had planned to sleep for two hours in the airport during the stop at CDC.

The airplane was not equipped with an ADS-B transponder, and as such a flight track was compiled utilizing preliminary radar data. The data indicated a target utilizing the 1200 (VFR) beacon code departing IDA at 2100 and flying southbound directly toward the Malad City VOR. Fifty minutes later, having crossed directly over the VOR at a Mode-C reported altitude of 9,200 ft, the target began to descend. By 2224, the target had reached the Promontory Mountains, a peninsular on the northern shores of the Great Salt Lake, about 35 miles northwest of Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). For the next 20 minutes, the target followed a meandering counterclockwise radial track around SLC, passing in and out of the edges of the airport’s Mode C veil, at an altitude of about 8,200 ft (figure 1).

By 2245, the target had reached the Tansbury Mountains, a north-south range situated west-southwest of SLC. The target crossed over the northern section of the range at an altitude of 8,200 ft, clearing terrain by about 400 ft vertically (figure 2). Review of the Salt Lake City sectional aeronautical chart revealed that the central area of the mountains were annotated as the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, and were within an approximately 3.5-mile-wide corridor between the SLC Mode-C veil, and the SEVIER B & D military operation areas (MOAs).

The target then flew south along the corridor over the foothills of the mountain range, where at one point it came within 100 ft vertically and horizontally of terrain. By 2250, the target was passing to the east of Desert Peak, the highest point in the range (11,031 ft), when it began a right turn directly through a valley and toward terrain (figure 2).

The last target was recorded at 2253:10 and indicated that the airplane was traveling on a heading of 221° about 0.75 miles short of the 10,330 ft peak, at an altitude of 8,200 ft, and airspeed of 98 knots.

At 2320 the Tooele County Fire Department received a 911 call reporting a fire had developed within the Tansbury Mountains. At 0700 the following morning family and friends of the pilot, having been unable reach her, informed the FAA of the missing airplane, and a subsequent ALNOT was issued. The wreckage was located by members of the Forest Service a few hours later.

The airplane came to rest on a 30° east-facing slope within a valley, about 1,300 ft beyond, and at the same elevation as, the last radar target. The terrain was composed of loose rock and soil, dispersed with pine trees and brush. The first identified point of impact was composed of an 18-inch-wide tree trunk, severed about 15 ft above ground level. The left wing had detached and was located about 10 ft upslope of the trunk. The wing had folded aft midspan and exhibited a semi-circular indentation in the wing spar, which matched the diameter of the trunk. A 10-ft-wide ground disruption was present to the right of the wing and contained fragments of painted aluminum along with the nose wheel. The ground disruption was at about the same level horizontally as the severed the trunk. The main wreckage was an additional 20 ft upslope and was composed of burnt remnants the cabin and right wing, along with the engine and empennage. The fuselage was on a heading of about 220°. The engine remained partially attached to the firewall, and the propeller had detached from the crankshaft, and was the last section located in the debris field, a further 15 ft upslope.

Civil twilight at the accident location ended at 2136.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N6323R
Model/Series: PA-28-140
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file 
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KTVY,4318 ft msl
Observation Time: 22:55 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 21°C /5°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Havre, MT (HVR)
Destination: Cedar City, UT (CDC)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude:40.403089,-112.58235 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

HAVRE, Montana (NMB) – A Havre mother is grieving after the loss of her daughter and mother in a plane crash in rural Utah last Thursday.

Virginia Seigel, 51, and Elise Lowrance, 6, died last week when the Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee plane Seigel was piloting crashed on the way to a family Father’s Day event in California.

Alexandra Seigel wants them to be remembered as joyous and caring individuals who could light up any room.

“They were very vibrant. They were electric people. They come around you and can make anybody smile. They made it their mission to do that in a way. They were super happy, they loved to be outside and they loved to kayak and go fishing and go play and bike. Elise loves rollerblading. They just were the most full of life people I’ve ever met and I think they would want everyone to just hold each other, to love each other, to put their phones down and go play with each other. I think they were wonderful, wonderful people that I want everyone to know. And I know they don’t have the opportunity to know them now, but those qualities were amazing and I want people to know that’s what they were like. Absolutely amazingly interested in living their life to the beat of their own drums as full as they could and as much as they could every day. They both really loved to play music, I think that’s important too. Especially Elise, Elise really loved to play music. She starting playing the piano when she was three by herself. She could play be ear. She could pick out songs, any song, she would play for you. And my Mom, she played the guitar. And they both really loved babies. Elise probably the most out of any human being I’ve ever met. Everybody else gets tired of babies eventually a little bit, but Elise never did. She could play peek-a-boo, I think, until she fell asleep. Like forever. She loved them so much. And I’m really sad that she won’t have the opportunity to have her own. But I think that I want her love at least to be known and go on as much as possible.”

Alexandra’s family is in Havre helping take care of her three other children.

Virginia Seigel was a Havre City Court Judge from 2014-2019 before joining the Havre Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol. She was a licensed pilot with a large amount of experience, beginning with 15 years flying helicopters in the U.S. Army.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Havre City Judge Virginia Seigel poses in November 2015, in her U.S. Army helicopter pilot uniform. Seigel, who left her judge position to start working for U.S. Border Patrol in 2019, died with her granddaughter, Elise Lowrance, 6, in a plane crash in Utah Thursday.

Former Havre City Judge Virginia Seigel and her granddaughter, Elise Lowrance, 6, died Thursday when the plane Seigel was flying enroute to a Father's Day event in California crashed in the Deseret Peak Wilderness in Utah.

Alexandra Seigel, daughter of Virginia Seigel and mother of Elise, said she found out for certain Sunday.

"It's been really hard," she said. "I'm trying to keep going for the rest of my kids."

She said the family of her husband, James Lowrance, are in town helping take care of their other children, Emily, 8, Amber, 4, and Ezra, 3.

She said her mother was taking Elise to California as a Father's Day surprise for Elise's great-grandfather.

"She really wanted to meet him," Seigel said.

She said the two were probably some of the best people she ever met.

"They were really full of life," Seigel said, "very vibrant people. They loved to play outside, they loved to kayak and swim and go to the park.

"Everything that kids like, my mom liked, too," she added.

She said Elise loved to bicycle - "She named her bike Ocean," she added.

And both loved music, with Virginia Seigel playing guitar and Elise playing the piano.

Alex Seigel said she was sick the week before the two left for California, and Elise would play on the piano, trying to make her feel better.

"They both really loved people," she said "They were always trying to make people laugh, to take care of people."

The crash also started a fire at the crash site. Utah officials report the Morgan Canyon Fire, now at 157 acres, was caused by the crash.

Virginia Seigel was elected city judge in 2013 after starting as the administrator for the Hill County Justice Court in 2010.

Seigel announced her retirement in November 2018, effective in January 2021, to take a position with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Seigel was a military veteran, having served in the U.S. Army for 14 years, 10 years as a helicopter pilot and four in the military special forces. While serving in the military Seigel flew in the United States, Germany, Iraq and Korea.  

Federal Aviation Administration lists that Seigel had a commercial pilot certificate and instrument qualifications for helicopters and had private pilot privileges for a single-engine land airplane like her Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee she was flying Thursday.

A Havre family is sharing memories of their loved ones who passed away in a plane crash late last week in Tooele County, Utah.

According to the family, the plane that crashed in the Deseret Peak Wilderness late Thursday night, sparking the Morgan Canyon Fire, was carrying two people headed to California for a family Father’s Day celebration.

“My mom and my daughter, they were very, very special to me,” an emotional Alexandra Seigel said to FOX 13 on Monday. “They were a really big part of my world.”

Seigel’s mother and 6-year-old daughter Elise Lowrance died in the crash. Her mother, 51-year-old Virginia Seigel, was an experienced pilot whose time in the sky began as a helicopter pilot for the United States Army.

“She flew in the military for about 15 years, but she flew helicopters,” Seigel said. "She was a really good pilot, she flew in combat. It’s very unexpected.”

According to Seigel, the flight itinerary included several stops, including Idaho Falls and Cedar City. “My mom, she messaged me when she got to Idaho Falls at about 7 o’clock at night, and about 9 o’clock she took off and she was supposed to message us when she got to her next stop which was Cedar City, Utah,” Seigel said.

But she never heard from her mother after Thursday night. She alerted a friend who was helping with their flight planning, who then alerted the Federal Aviation Administration, who began to look for the plane. After a day of searching, Seigel got a call from the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office and learned of the crash on Saturday.

“I know that it happened, I understand that it happened, I know that it’s real, but it’s so hard for me to even really, really believe that those people aren’t with me anymore because they were the most alive people I’ve ever met,” said Seigel. “It just seems so wrong that they’re not here with us.”

Her daughter Elise missed Kindergarten last year due to the pandemic and was excited for the upcoming school year. Alex says that Elise was always happy, loved becoming an older sister and enjoyed playing the piano.

“Probably one of the most vibrant people I’ve ever met, she actually reminded me a lot of my mom. They had a really close bond,” said Seigel. “They were both so full of life. I don’t think anyone is more full of life than Elise was.”

Both Virginia and Elise leave behind a large support system filled with family and friends in Havre.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Virginia Seigel

SALT LAKE CITY – The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the plane crash last month that started the Morgan Canyon Fire. 

The report said the pilot was a woman flying with her six-year-old granddaughter to El Centro, California as a Father’s Day surprise for the pilot’s father. Both passengers died in the crash.  

The report said the pilot left her home airport at Havre, Montana at 4 p.m. on June 17. A friend told the NTSB that they planned to fly overnight to El Centro to avoid heat and turbulence. The plane stopped for fuel in Idaho Springs with another stop planned for Cedar City and a scheduled arrival at El Centro by 6:00 a.m. 

The pilot planned to get a couple of hours of sleep in Cedar City before finishing the flight. 

The NTSB report said the plane reached the northern edge of The Great Salt Lake around 10:24 p.m. 

“For the next 20 minutes, the target followed a meandering counterclockwise radial track around SLC,” the report said. 

By 10:45 p.m., the plane reached the Stansbury Mountains.

“The target (plane) crossed over the northern section of the range at an altitude of 8,200 ft, clearing terrain by about 400 ft vertically,” the report said. 

The flight continued south along the corridor over the foothills of the mountain range “where at one point it came within 100 ft vertically and horizontally of terrain,” according to the report.

The plane then turned directly through a valley and toward terrain, the report said.

“The target (plane) was passing to the east of Desert Peak, the highest point in the range (11,031 ft), when it began a right turn directly through a valley and toward terrain. The last target (radar ping) was recorded at 2253:10 (10:53 p.m.) and indicated that the airplane was traveling on a heading of 221° about 0.75 miles short of the 10,330 ft peak, at an altitude of 8,200 ft, and airspeed of 98 knots.” 

Around 11:30 that night, 911 operators answered a call about a fire in the Stansbury Mountains.

Early the following morning, friends and family reported that the plane was missing and did not arrive in California.

Forest Service firefighters found the wreckage a few hours later when they responded to the resulting fire in Morgan Canyon

The report said the crash was found in rough terrain at the same elevation the last radar indication.

According to a statement from the United States Department of Agriculture, authorities have confirmed the cause of the Morgan Canyon Fire was an aircraft that went down in the Deseret Peak Wilderness Thursday evening.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), along with the Tooele County Sheriff assisted in the investigation.

Authorities confirmed that two people died in the Piper PA-28-140 aircraft crash. Those individuals have not yet been identified.

The Morgan Canyon Fire has burned approximately 37 acres in the Deseret Peak Wilderness in Tooele County, southwest of Grantsville. It is currently 0% contained. Full suppression tactics are being utilized due to the current weather situation.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is also in place surrounding the fire. Use of drones is prohibited, and the public is asked to avoid the area to minimize impacting crews.

Sunday morning saw 10 active wildfires burning across Utah, with the largest continuing to be the Flatt Fire in Iron County.

That blaze had burned 14,443 acres and was 15% contained as of Sunday morning, although that containment figure was an improvement over Saturday, when the fire was 0% contained.

The Flatt Fire was ignited by lightning on Friday. According to a post on, fire crews expect the blaze to continue moving west Sunday as winds pick up in the afternoon. Firefighters working on suppression efforts will be aided by water drops from helicopters.

The Morgan Canyon Fire is currently mapped at 37 acres with 0% containment. Early Sunday morning, @UtahWildFire tweeted that fire investigators confirmed that the cause of the wildfire was an aircraft that went down in the Deseret Peak Wilderness on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board told The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday afternoon that both passengers inside the Piper PA-28-140 were killed in the crash. An onsite examination of the aircraft was completed Sunday, and it’s expected to be removed later this week.

A phone call to the Tooele City Police Department seeking the identities of the victims was not immediately returned.

The Bennion Creek Fire in Utah County remained at 8,313 acres with 63% containment, up from 45% on Saturday. Winds and extremely dry conditions in the area have not helped as that blaze burns in steep terrain in timber, mountain mahogany, pinyon pine and juniper.

There was no update Sunday morning on the latest active fire, MM17, which began on Saturday near Levan. At the time, that fire had burned 150 acres and was 0% contained.

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