A California family flying to Oregon on a university scouting trip died April 7 along with their pilot when the Piper Malibu airplane they were traveling in crashed on approach to the Eugene Airport.
Authorities say John Zitting, 42, his wife, Karen Sitting, 37, and their son John Brendan Zitting, 17, of Thousand Oaks, California, were on their way to the University of Oregon in Eugene, where John Brendan was considering attending.
The pilot was identified as Mark Gregory Aletky, 67, of Acton, California.
The airplane, a six-seat, single-engine 1984 Piper PA-46-310P (Malibu), was registered to Park City Aviation LLC of Park City, Utah, and was based in Van Nuys, California. The plane left Van Nuys at 7:22 a.m. Based on a 911 call to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, the plane crashed a few minutes before 11 a.m.
Investigators say the airplane was flying on instrument. Witnesses who saw the plane go down told investigators it was flying north at a low altitude when it suddenly flipped on its side and crashed straight down into a field north of Harrisburg, Oregon, about 20 miles north of Eugene. The Linn County Sheriff’s Office said it is unknown at the time why the airplane continued flying north past the Eugene Airport.
The airplane crash is under investigators by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), whose representatives arrived at the site over the weekend to start an investigation.
According to The Oregonian, Mr. Zitting was the president of TruNorthe LLC, a construction management firm, a growing company that employs about 30 people. An employee of the company told The Oregonian that Mr. Zitting was excited to have bought a plane and hired a pilot. Mr. Aletky, and experienced pilot who left his career as a drummer to become a pilot at age 45, was reemployed full-time by TruNorthe as Mr. Zitting traveled more and more frequently.
NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said that investigators will be looking at weather conditions, the pilot’s sleep and rest cycle and other routines that may have affected his performance, medical records, and airplane maintenance records.
The airplane didn’t erupt in flames on impact, a fact that Mr. Knudson said was “helpful” because no instrumentation was destroyed. The lack of fire may also indicate the plane was low on fuel.
Source: The Oregonian