Plane that crashed in West Jordan, killing 4, shouldn’t have taken off, lawsuit alleges

An attorney argues the aircraft crashed because the pilot didn’t operate the plane within the limits of the day’s conditions.

(Courtesy of FOX 13) An aerial view of the crash site where a small plane, carrying six passengers, struck a residential neighborhood in West Jordan on Saturday, July 25, 2020.

Attorneys for a teenage girl who survived a 2020 plane crash in West Jordan — which killed her mother, the pilot, his infant child, and a woman whose house was hit — have filed a lawsuit saying the aircraft shouldn’t have taken off that day.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in 3rd District Court, alleges the plane was either overweight, overloaded or the pilot, Lee Wyckoff, didn’t consider or properly calculate the elevation and temperature, or otherwise flew the plane when conditions were unsafe.

Wyckoff, his 9-month-old daughter Coral, and passenger Milda Shibonis all died when the plane crashed into a home in West Jordan on July 25, 2020. The homeowner, 72-year-old Mary Quintana, also died after a few days in the hospital. She was outside on her porch when the aircraft crashed.

Shibonis’ daughter, Veda Sheperd, then 12, survived. Rebecca Wyckoff, the pilot’s wife and the baby’s mother, also survived. So did their then-2-year-old son Cody.

The National Transportation and Safety Board hasn’t yet concluded its investigation into the crash. A preliminary report states the plane crashed a little more than a minute after takeoff. The board hasn’t issued a final report.

Witnesses told investigators the plane was flying “very low” and teetered or banked before it crashed.

The report states that Wyckoff had filed an instrumental flight rules plan, used when weather doesn’t allow for the pilot to navigate with visual cues.

FOX 13 reported that Wyckoff had received an instrument flight rules certification less than two weeks before the flight.

Edward Havas, an attorney for the teen’s representative, said Shibonis and her daughter knew Wyckoff and were flying with him to sightsee.

Havas said that while the transportation and safety board hasn’t yet determined the plane crashed because of “density altitude” issues, the allegations in the lawsuit “are inferences based on several factors,” including the temperature and airport elevation, the number of people aboard, and that the plane crashed so soon after takeoff.

Density altitude is a calculation that pilots use to determine how high or low temperatures, elevation and humidity could impact how the plane flies. A higher density altitude decreases a plane’s performance, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Hot, high, and humid weather conditions can cause a routine takeoff or landing to become an accident in less time than it takes to tell about it,” the FAA said.

Wyckoff lived in Virginia, according to his obituary, but grew to love Utah after working here as the state’s first inspector general.

The Tribune was unable to contact the named defendants, Wyckoff’s business Living Evergreen LLC, and his wife, Rebecca, because their attorney information wasn’t listed in court records.

The wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit is seeking more than $300,000 in damages.


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