RENO, Nev. (AP) — The pilot of a medical transport plane that crashed during a winter storm in Nevada, killing all five people on board, was following in the footsteps of his grandfather who flew bombers in World War II.
All five on board died from multiple blunt-force injuries in the crash near rural Stagecoach, including pilot Scott Walton, 46, of Allendale, Michigan, the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday.
Michael Walton, who had flown several times as his brother’s passenger, said Scott Walton “always had an affinity for aviation” — even throughout his 20s when he was working in marketing. Michael Walton said their grandfather flew B-24s in World War II.
“Scott had a natural talent and kept a level head,” Michael Walton told The Associated Press, his voice breaking as he fought back tears. “I know from the person and pilot he was, he did absolutely everything that he could have in the flight on Friday, and if he wasn’t able to recover it, there was no else that could have.”
The other four victims were from Reno — 69-year-old patient Mark Rand and his 66-year-old spouse Terri Rand, as well as two medical crew members, Edward Pricola, 32, and Ryan Watson, 27. Officials have not said what medical condition Mark Rand had.
It wasn’t clear if weather played a role in the crash, which happened amid a winter storm. Authorities have said the plane was headed from Reno to Salt Lake City.
The National Weather Service in Reno said it was snowing steadily with winds around 20 mph (30 kph) and gusts up to 30 mph (50 kph), and visibility was under 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) with a cloud ceiling about 2,000 feet (600 meters) above ground when the flight left Reno.
The single-engine Pilatus PC12 apparently broke apart before hitting the ground about 40 miles (64 kilometer) southeast of Reno, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which has sent a seven-member investigative team to the crash site.
Federal Aviation Administration records show the plane was registered to Guardian Flight, based in South Jordan, Utah. Care Flight is a service of REMSA Health in Reno and Guardian Flight.
Scott Walton’s oldest brother, John, a broadcaster in Washington, D.C. and the voice of the NHL’s Washington Capitals on WTOP Radio, said on Twitter after calling Saturday’s game that he was grateful for the support his family has received from the community.
“I had to do the game today with a broken heart,” John Walton wrote.
Michael Walton, the youngest of the three brothers, described Scott Walton as “the resident comic of the group.”
“He found humor and joy in so many moments and brought that to all of us in any type of situation,” Michael Walton said. “He was the central part of our family and kind of like the glue that held everyone together.”
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Scott Walton picked up flying as a hobby while working in marketing before deciding in his 30s to pursue his passion for aviation as a full-time career. Michael Walton said his brother was excited by the opportunity to pilot medical flights after many years of training.
“The ability to become a better pilot and help people in absolutely desperate situations, to get them to an area where they could get the critical care they needed,” Michael Walton said, “that’s something that gave him a purpose and a drive in his professional life.”
But his career — as much as he loved it — came second to the love he had for his family, Michael Walton said.
“He was the absolute best husband and father to his three girls,” Michael Walton said, “and they were just the absolute light of his life.”
NTSB Vice Chair Bruce Landsberg said Sunday that investigators at the scene of the crash determined the aircraft “broke up in flight” based on the location of parts of the plane found up to three-quarters of a mile away.
A preliminary NTSB investigation into the cause of the crash Friday night will take two to three weeks, spokesperson Peter Kundson said Monday.
Walton’s family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his wife and daughters.
Yamat reported from Las Vegas.