Arizona Small Plane Crash Kills Six

A small plane crashed into a golf course in Arizona, killing six people on April 9, 2018. The plane, which was headed from Scottsdale, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada, crashed into the TPC Scottsdale Champions course. All six people on board the Piper PA-24-260 died in the crash. Officials are now investigating what caused the small plane to crash, although a full report could take more than a year.

Witness Heard the Piper Plane Stall 

Speaking with USA Today, Versace King said he noticed the small, single-engine aircraft take off, then moments later he heard the plane stall followed by an explosion.

"I was like, 'What the heck?' So I drove over to the golf course and I saw the plane was engulfed in flames," King said. He told the reporter the weather was "perfect" at the time of the crash.

Debbie Robinson, who lives near the crash site, said she saw smoke from the crash.

Was Weight a Factor in the PA-24 Comanche Crash? 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been to the crash site to gather evidence. That evidence is being moved to a location in Phoenix for further examination. The plane involved in the crash was a Piper PA-24 Comanche. It was built in 1970 with either four seats or six seats—officials have not indicated how many seats this particular plane originally came with—and one engine. It is possible that the plane could have been built with four seats and modified to allow for two extra seats, and investigators are working to determine if and when those modifications would have been made. If the engine was upgraded, the plane's center of gravity and recommended weight distribution would also have to have been modified.

Of concern to safety experts is whether the plane was overweight considering the number of passengers onboard. The weight limitations of the aircraft must allow for fuel, passengers and luggage.

Even with six seats, experts say, most planes should not carry the maximum number of people, given the added weight of fuel and luggage.

"Most airplanes have two more seats than they can really use," said Brent Bowen, who teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This means that a six-seat plane should carry no more than four people.

Until 2015, Cecil Ice was the plane's registered owner. Ice died in 2012, but he was a pilot and flight instructor. He also sold airplanes. Publicly available documents do not list the plane's current owner, although an address is listed on the plane's pending registration.

In addition to analyzing the plane's weight and modifications, investigators will also examine the logbook, interview witnesses and chart the plane's takeoff to determine what caused the tragedy.

Friends Remember Victims of Arizona Small Plane Crash

Six people in their 20s and early 30s were on board the Piper aircraft when it crashed. Killed in the crash were:

  • Erik Valente, 32 (his age was initially listed as 26)
  • James Louis Pedroza, 28
  • Anand Kamlesh Patel, 28
  • Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23
  • Iris Carolina Rodriguez Garcia, 23
  • Helena Lagos, 22

All died when the plane crashed into the golf course and caught fire shortly after its 8:45 p.m. takeoff from Scottsdale Airport. The crash occurred less than a mile from the airport.

Coogan was well-known on Instagram, with more than 28,000 photos. Hailing from Santa Rosa, California, she was a horse trainer and aspired to be a model. Her mother remembered her as someone who brightened a room when she walked into it.

Lagos studied at UNLV and ran a business exporting fruits and vegetables. Rodriguez was Lagos' friend from Honduras, while Pedroza was Lagos' boyfriend. The two women had planned to drive to Arizona and fly back. Lagos' mother says she begged them not to go on their trip.

Patel, who lived in Oklahoma, co-founded a clothing line and also worked as an event promoter. He was known by his nickname "Happy."

Since 2014, Valente worked as a corporate jet pilot and was an instructor with a Las Vegas flight school. He studied aviation management at the University of North Dakota and started his flight training at age 16.

A friend remembered Pedroza as a man who lived life to the fullest and stood up for equal rights.