ABU DHABI // Friends and relatives of four Americans who died in a plane crash in Al Ain spoke yesterday of their grief and loss.
The accident happened just after 8pm on Sunday when a McKinnon G21G turbo-prop seaplane veered to the left shortly after takeoff from Al Ain International Airport and crashed on the taxiway before catching fire, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said. All four on board died.
The private plane was heading for Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a week-long trip to the US. It is owned by Triple S Aviation, a Texas-based company with a consultancy in Dubai.
The four who died were Landon Studer, the owner and general manager of Triple S Aviation; Joshua Hucklebridge, his high-school friend and the company’s international project manager; Tyler Orsow, a California-based pilot; and Charles Kimes, a pilot from Nevada who owned an aircraft acquisition company.
“It’s really just sad. I’m shocked,” said Josh Prewitt, a business partner and friend of Mr Studer and Mr Hucklebridge.
Mr Prewitt said the two men worked in aircraft sales, but their real passion was flying. “Landon was such a young guy, a kid. But he died doing what he loved doing. He loved flying,” Mr Prewitt said.
Mr Studer, who started Triple S in 2006, was an accomplished pilot who served in the US air force and worked for the US State Department as an aviation-specialised skills officer.
“My father taught me how to fly in a bright blue 1968 Beech Debonair before I could drive, and I have fond memories of arguments between my brothers and I over who would get to fly the Citation legs on our family trips,” Mr Studer wrote in a 2010 newsletter to the members of his Commemorative Air Force squadron.
Mr Studer lived in Texas with his wife, Dora, and a toddler son, Landon Gabriel.
Landon Studer’s younger brother, Claysn Studer, who works for Triple S in Texas, posted a message on Facebook that said: “Today I lost two people that meant the world to me, my brother and my friend.
“I will always remember the great times we had on all the corners of the globe. I’m going miss you guys out there.”
Rod Winter, an American Airlines pilot and a friend of Mr Kimes, added this tribute on the social networking website: “We all lost an amazing human and friend in Chuck Kimes, an American Airlines 777 captain doing what he loved, flying.
“Chuck had described this trip as an adventure not available to most others. He will be missed and my heart and sympathies go out to Andrea and his family and all our friends as this hurts.
“We are all better off having known this incredible guy.”
Jeanne Gonzales, Tyler Orsow’s cousin who lives in South Lake Tahoe, in California, added this message: “Tyler was the sweetest person in the world and loved flying planes. His heart was gold. Smartest guy and gentle.”
A US Embassy spokesperson said US and Emirati authorities would be working together to determine the cause of the crash. The small plane was destroyed by the impact and fire, the GCAA said. Investigators and fire vehicles remained on the scene yesterday.
Last week Mr Kimes posted details of the planned trip, which was expected to include stops in Morocco, Brazil and Costa Rica before landing in Texas around March 6.
The US Embassy released a statement of condolence yesterday.
“On behalf of the government and people of the United States, the US Mission to the United Arab Emirates extends its deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the crash in Al Ain on February 27. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who perished in last night’s tragic event,” the statement read.
* Additional reporting by Essam al Ghalib