Many high-profile disasters have highlighted the dangers of private air travel. Despite the fact that flying private has become safer since the 1970s, it still remains much more dangerous than commercial flight.
According to Live Science, what’s troubling to federal safety experts is that the accident rate in general aviation hasn’t budged much over the past decade. Here’s what happened to six friends on a flight to Las Vegas…
Flight To Las Vegas
Just 15 minutes after a private plane took off on a flight to Las Vegas, it plummeted into TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course. The Scottsdale Police Department confirmed the plane carrying six people did not have any issues prior to taking off.
Air Traffic Controller
“Are you experiencing any difficulty?” an air traffic controller asked the 28-year-old pilot, James Pedroza. “Uh, we’re good, we’re just a training lesson,” Pedroza replied. Despite this final call to air traffic control indicating there were no issues, the plane crashed right after the call.
TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course
The Piper PA- 24 Comanche went down on the TPC Scottsdale Champions Golf Course, which is the sister to the Stadium Course, where the PGA’s Waste Management Phoenix Open is held each February. The police department confirmed that the crash killed all six passengers.
Mariah Sunshine Coogan, 23, Anand Patel, 26, Helena Lagos, 22, James Pedroza, 28, Erik Valente, 26, and Iris Rodriguez Garcia, 23, were pronounced dead due to the crash. But the Federal Aviation Administration has not yet determined why the plane went down in the first place.
No one on the ground was hurt from the crash, according to Kevin Watts, a Scottsdale Police Department spokesman. Investigators at the site examined the burning wreckage next to a tree.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Eliott Simpson told CBS News that investigators were working to “gather as much evidence as we can and try not to jump to conclusions” about the cause of the crash. He added that investigators would document how the plane hit the ground and determine if it hit any trees on the golf course and examine the burn scar left by the plane.
“Today, we’re going to be basically gathering perishable evidence and on-scene data, actual data gathering,” Simpson told reporters. He said the evidence will then be taken to a remote storage facility for closer examination.
Investigators will also listen to the audio tape of the pilot talking to the airport tower during takeoff. As for the family and friends of the deceased, they are all grieving. “Everybody on that plane was just getting their lives started,” Coogan’s friend, Ryan Beatty said.
Video Before The Crash
Before the planned crashed, a video emerged showing the passengers on the plane while they were still alive. In the video, Maria Coogan, a model who had been training horses in San Diego, turned her cellphone’s camera to Anand “Happy” Patel, an entrepreneur from Los Angeles, who was sitting next to her before takeoff.
In the video, Patel flashed a peace sign and smiled. His twin brother Akash Patel told KPHO-TV that his parents are in denial that their son is gone. “We were shocked, and they are still shocked, and they’re hoping that there’s a miracle that he comes back,” Akash said.
Coogan has over 32,000 followers on Instagram and regularly posted pictures of herself with friends or in a bikini. The Arizona Republic reported that Coogan left high school in 2012 in order to pursue a modeling career.
Mariah Sunshine Coogan
“She was eager for adventure, and I always found her easy to speak with,” Principal Graham Rutherford of Cardinal Newman High School in California told the news outlet. “She got on well with many students, too.” Coogan’s family told the TV station that she will be missed.
Another passenger, James Pedroza, worked as a host at a gay nightclub in Las Vegas, according to his friend Garrett Pattiani. “I am sad that he is gone but loved how he lived life to the fullest. He was wanting to see the world and travel,” Pattiani told The Republic.
Living Life To The Fullest
“He never judged anyone and was always there to stand up for his rights…He will be missed,” Pattiani added. Pedroza’s roommate, Micah Griggs, says that he’d been dating the other passenger in the crash – Lagos, for six months.
“They were pushing six months, it was a big deal,” Griggs told Fox 5. “They were just dynamite together. They just loved life.” Griggs said he always had a fun time with Pedroza, saying they were best friends.
Lived For Adventure
“‘Hey I hung out with James today and did nothing,’ said no one ever,” Griggs said. Pedroza has over 12,000 followers on Instagram, who enjoyed watching him on adventures. It’s apparent from his account that traveling is Pedroza’s passion.
Patel’s twin, Akash, said that his brother loved to travel and enjoyed being an influencer on Instagram, where he has over 41,000 followers. Akash said, “My brother was taken away from us doing what he loved to do the most, which was spending time with his friends and flying.”
Authorities are looking into whether the plane was equipped to carry six people. “Right now, it’s something we’re trying to find out,” investigator Simpson said. “We’re going to be basically gathering perishable evidence and on-scene data, actual data gathering.”
A month after the horrible incident, surveillance video was released showing the plane flipping sideways in the air before bursting into flames. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane’s wings became nearly vertical seconds before crashing.
The video appeared to be captured from overhead a major highway. Cars drove in both directions as the plane fell to the ground, casting smoke overhead. Memorials were held for all the victims since the horrible accident.