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Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

Report: Weather was factor in fatal crash that killed Clinton brothers

By Emiley Morgan, Deseret News

Published: Sat, Aug. 9 10:50 p.m. MDT

 Jaxon Whatcott, 16 (right) and his brother Daulton Whatcott, 19 (left) both from Clinton, died in a plane crash in the gorge along the I-15 freeway, along the Utah-Arizona border Sunday, July 20, 2014.

Jaxon Whatcott, 16 (right) and his brother Daulton Whatcott, 19 (left) both from Clinton, died in a plane crash in the gorge along the I-15 freeway, along the Utah-Arizona border Sunday, July 20, 2014.

(Family photos)

CLINTON — A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board on the airplane crash that claimed the lives of two brothers from Clinton last month indicated that weather conditions were a factor in the crash.

Daulton Whatcott, 19, and Jaxon Whatcott, 16, were killed July 20 when their single-engine Cessna 172 went down in a rocky area along the Arizona Strip, about 150 feet off I-15 just south of the Virgin River Gorge. The NTSB report, released last week, states that the plane was "destroyed by a collision with terrain and a postcrash fire" and that "visual meteorological conditions prevailed," causing the fatal crash.

Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees the day of the incident and the wind would hold steady with occasional gusts. A motorist traveling south on I-15 said they saw the plane pass over the canyon and follow the path of the highway.

"The airplane made a left turn following the highway, and suddenly rolled inverted and impacted the canyon wall," the report states. "The motorist said the conditions in the canyon were very windy."

The report states that the airplane was investigated twice at the crash site before being moved to a storage facility for further examination. No mechanical issues had been reported to family members who were monitoring the flight and had talked to Daulton Whatcott before the brothers left Beaver.

The brothers were headed to Las Vegas to attend a basketball tournament.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT,
Aug. 10, 2014

"The airplane made a left turn following the highway, and suddenly rolled inverted and impacted the canyon wall," the report states. "The motorist said the conditions in the canyon were very windy."

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...and Cruising altitude should have been almost 8,000 ABOVE the canyon.

2. DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Aug. 10, 2014

Wrong interpretation of "visual meteorological conditions prevailed."

"Visual flight rules (VFR) are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going. Specifically, the weather must be better than basic VFR weather minima, i.e. in visual meteorological conditions (VMC), as specified in the rules of the relevant aviation authority. The pilot must be able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground, and by visually avoiding obstructions and other aircraft.
If the weather is below VMC, pilots are required to use instrument flight rules, and operation of the aircraft will primarily be through referencing the instruments rather than visual reference."

Although high temperatures and wind may have been factors, a crash in VFR conditions usually indicate that pilot error was the major factor.

3. K
Mchenry, IL,
Aug. 10, 2014

Why do people need to fly to a sports game? Don't you need to then drive to the event from the airport? Didn't they have to travel by car to get to the airport they took off from?

4. davidroy
Flagstaff, AZ,
Aug. 10, 2014

There are no specifics on altitude but it sounds like the pilot was flying through the gorge at the time of the accident. That is dicey at best but with high winds and updrafts and a relatively inexperienced pilot, it's an accident waiting to happen.

5. environmental idiot
Sanpete, UT,
Aug. 10, 2014

The investigation shows they were flying within the rules of the FAA that day and it appears that a gust of wind that was not expected took the craft down. It was a terrible tragedy for the family and I find it very demeaning and disrespective when people with no knowledge of what they are taking about try to pin blame on these boys.