Kyle Parton and Jacob Griffiths had planned on taking a quick flight with their father-in-law, Doug Symiczek, to visit favorite cafe in Corona, California, for breakfast. Later, the three would fly back to French Valley Airport to join their wives and go boating near Menifee.
The three men never made it back. They died in what one family member is calling a “freak accident,” when their plane, owned and piloted by Symiczek, crashed into the mountains near Lake Elsinore on the morning of July 6.
Witnesses said they heard the engine of the 1967 Piper PA28 sputter shortly before it made an abrupt, sharp turn and crashed into a stand of trees.
“(Doug) knew what was going on, and that he needed to land right away,” Symiczek’s sister-in-law, Beckie Dennison, told The Press-Enterprise. “If he hadn’t hit the tree, they would have landed safely. It’s such a freak accident.”
The deaths leave the family devastated. Parton and Griffiths were both about to become fathers. Symiczek and his wife, Kim, were coming up on their 30th wedding anniversary.
Parton, 29, leaves behind his pregnant wife, Breanna, who was due to deliver the day of the crash. He also leaves behind a 3-year-old son, Ryder.
Griffiths was 32. His wife, Amanda, is three months pregnant with their first child.
His mother, Susan Griffiths, told the Orange County Register that he was excited about becoming a father.
Before he left for the flight Sunday, Susan Griffiths said, “He kissed [Amanda’s] belly and said ‘I love you’ and ‘I'll see you in a little while.’”
The Griffiths family is from Irvine, where they attend Mariners Church.
“He was a young man of noble character,” Mariners Church pastor Eric Heard said of Jacob Griffiths. “They are just good people.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
Eric Weiss, a spokesman with the NTSB, said the agency sent an investigator to the crash site the day after the accident.
“They’re racing against the daylight hours to gather as much data as they can,” Weiss said, adding the investigator was “trying to get a sense of the history of the flight” to determine what went wrong.
A preliminary report on the crash is expected shortly but a full investigation may take as long as a year, Weiss said.
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