A small plane that had been dropping candy on a church gathering in western Wyoming crashed Tuesday night, killing two men on board.
Bard Lefevre, 22, and Chad Burton, 64, were both of the Afton area in Star Valley. The plane went down near homes, but officials say nobody on the ground was hurt.
Lincoln County Sheriff Shane Johnson says the aircraft crashed about one-half mile from the church event being held in a park. He says he believes people at the event saw the impact.
Johnson says there's no indication it hit anything before crashing about 5 miles northwest of Afton.
Those close to Burton described him as deeply religious, a family man and active in the community of 330 people on the Idaho border. He was the kind of man who would provide treats to community members.
“The thing that always impressed me about Chad: flying always put a smile on his face, but more than that, he liked to take other people flying and see the smile on their face,” said Rick Session, the airport manager in nearby Afton.
The two men served on the airport board, which Burton joined in the mid-90s, according to Sessions.
He said if Burton wasn’t busy with his concrete business, he was rarely seen without the company of his grandchildren.
Burton began flying as a teenager. He never taught flying, but he promoted aviation among the younger generation, according to Sessions.
As recently as Saturday, Burton was taking kids for rides as part of the airport’s annual Young Eagles program.
Lincoln County Chairman Jerry Harmon’s granddaughter was one of the people who benefited from a ride with Burton.
“(She was) elated. He was the kind of guy who would take them up and tease them, talk to them, let them listen in on the headphones,” Harmon said. “He was a jovial person, always friendly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him mad.”
Burton’s passenger, Lefevre, was in the process of earning his pilot’s license. This Saturday would have been his first solo flight.
“He was advancing very well,” said John Koehler, a flight instructor with Afton Flight Service. “He had good skills.
The young man was quiet, but he loved flying, Koehler added. His dad recently bought a plane and was taking lessons alongside his two sons.
“It is a great tragedy. They were both wonderful assets to the aviation community,” Koehler said of Burton and Lefevre.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate what caused the single-engine Aeronca 7BCM to crash, according to FAA officials.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.