Utah men killed in St. George plane crash identified
St. George • Investigators say video shows plane had just taken off.
Published: May 28, 2012 08:23PM
Updated: May 28, 2012 03:54PM
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Samantha Clemens | The Spectrum Emergency officials respond to a fatal plane crash near the St. George Municipal Airport on Saturday, May 26, 2012. The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Association are investigating. The Cessna 172 single-engine fixed-wing airplane crashed about 300 feet south of the airport's runway.

Washington County authorities on Sunday released the names of the four men who died when their plane crashed early Saturday at the St. George Municipal Airport.

The men were identified as Christopher Jordan Chapman, 20, and Colby Chester Hafen, 28, both of Santa Clara; Tanner James Holt, 23, of Washington City and Georgia; and Alexander James Metzger, 22, of St. George, according to a press release from St. George officials.

St. George city spokesman Marc Mortensen said investigators were not saying who was piloting the Cessna 172 single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft when it crashed about 300 feet from the south end of the runway. He said that was part of the investigation.

They also were withholding ownership of the plane.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records indicated Sunday that the plane was registered to Diamond Flying LLC, a St. George business.

Video of the runway showed the plane crashed after takeoff at about 1:20 a.m., said Zoe Keliher, investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

“The airplane continued down the runway and made a rapid ascent,” Keli­her said. The plane left the frame of the video and then reappeared, descending rapidly, Keliher said.

The wreck was found about 5:30 a.m. during a routine security check, Keliher said. All four men had died.

Brecken Chapman, Chapman’s 13-year-old sister, said her brother cared about others and always put them ahead of himself. She said he planned to attend the University of Utah this fall in hopes of becoming a doctor.

“He was really funny,” Brecken Chapman said from the family’s home. “He had a memorable smile. He was a good brother and a hard worker.”

She said she saw her brother the night before the crash but didn’t know he planned to go flying with friends. She said her brother hadn’t flown frequently.

Investigators had not yet confirmed the destination or reason for the flight, Keli­her said. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Mortensen said employees perform the last check at the airport at midnight and return at 6 a.m. The airport does not have a radio tower. An automated system allows pilots in the area to communicate with one another during takeoff or landing.

Investigators moved the wreckage Sunday to a hangar at the airport so it could be further analyzed over coming weeks, Keliher said. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

The airport does not plan to review its policies, Mortensen said. A police officer performs perimeter checks at night, he said, noting the city may increase those checks. However, he noted the outcome would have been the same even if employees had been there.

“If he would have been on the scene moments later, it would not have made a difference,” Mortensen said. “It was obvious those involved were killed on impact.”

Keliher said a preliminary report will be complete in about five days, with the board’s final conclusions to be issued in six to eight months.

Investigators are trying to locate any witnesses who may have seen the crash or had contact with the men beforehand. Keli­her encouraged anyone with information to contact her at zoe.keliher@ntsb.gov.

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