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Family photo courtesy of Steve Cottle

2 Weber County couples killed in plane crash on I-15

By McKenzie Romero  |  Posted Jul 26th, 2017 @ 9:21pm


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RIVERDALE, Weber County — Two couples from Weber County died Wednesday when a small plane crashed down onto I-15 in Riverdale, snarling freeway traffic for hours.

Layne and Diana Clarke, ages 48 and 46, of Taylor, were killed in the crash along with Perry and Sarah Huffaker, ages 45 and 42, of West Haven, the Utah Department of Public Safety reported.

Officials have not yet identified who was flying the plane.

Steve Cottle, the Clarkes' LDS bishop and an employee in Layne Clarke's paint supply business, said Layne Clarke was a passionate pilot who loved to share his hobby with others.

The Beech A36 Bonanza that the couples were flying in took off from Ogden-Hinckley Airport shortly before 1 p.m., then quickly crashed a half-mile away for unknown reasons, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Audio of conversation between the plane's pilot and air traffic controllers recorded the pilot receiving clearance to take off, then about 45 seconds later reporting that he was going down.

In the moments afterward, calls between other pilots and the air traffic controllers described the crash.

"I just saw him go down, he's uh, he hit the highway there," says one man. Another man replies with an expletive.

A third says, "Looks like he spun out of control and went straight down to the highway."

April Demetropolis, of Salt Lake City, was driving to work in Ogden when the plane crashed so close to her car that she felt the reverberation of its impact and heat from a large explosion.

"Out of nowhere from the east side, a plane came swooping in and just nose-dived into the middle of the freeway," Demetropolis said. "It exploded. The flames engulfed the entire street."

The plane missed passing cars on the freeway, Demetropolis said. Nearby drivers pulled to the side and immediately rushed to help.

"The kid in front of me … he pulled over in front of me as I pulled over further behind him, he jumped and ran, and he was already on his cellphone," she said.

Demetropolis was among numerous witnesses who called 911, then stayed to provide statements to law enforcement.

More than a dozen 911 calls, many of them emotional, described the little green and white plane's sudden fall, the sound of the crash, the explosion and thick billowing smoke marking where it came down.

One man, breathless, told dispatchers, "It was a little, small single engine plane, I don't see how anyone could have survived it."

A woman who called in wept as she reported the crash.

"A plane just went down," she said through tears. "I just watched it, I watched it go down."

One woman, who saw the crash from a nearby apartment, said the plane "was flying down and all of a sudden it spun out of control."

All northbound lanes were initially closed and southbound traffic was down to one lane as crews responded, police said, leaving traffic in both directions significantly delayed into the evening.

Perry Huffaker was a member of the Ogden Trails Network Committee. The Ogden City Council tweeted about Huffaker's death Wednesday, saying, "Ogden is a better place because of Perry's service."

Bishop Cottle said the Clarkes were loving parents of four children and generous participants in the community, area schools and their church.

The Huffakers, he said, had the same giving spirit. Facebook photos show the couple with four children.

The Clarkes and the Huffakers were close friends and were travelling to Island Park in Idaho for a vacation together when the crash occurred, he said.

"Layne and Diana, Perry and Sarah, were unbelievably giving and loving people, they'd do anything for anyone," Bishop Cottle said. "If there were more people like them in this world, this would be a different place. This would be a place of peace and happiness."

The Clarkes' children are surrounded by family as they mourn their parents' deaths, he said.

"This is going to be tough, but they'll make it. They'll make it because of the way they were taught by their parents. I have no doubt about that," the bishop said.

Layne Clark was "all about working hard and playing hard," and always invited those around him to share in whatever he was doing, Bishop Cottle said. He described Clark as a "conscious and safety oriented pilot."

Layne Clarke's brother Corry Clarke also died in a plane accident in 2002, according to an obituary. The Deseret News reported at the time that Corry Clarke was a passenger in the lightweight experimental craft, which crashed at Ogden-Hinckley Airport just after lifting off the runway.

The Clarke brothers were business partners in High Country Aviation, the company that manufactured the aircraft.

Bishop Cottle, who also knew Corry Clarke, said Wednesday's crash was like "a big re-run."

"There are a lot of things right now that aren't making sense," he lamented.

Contributing: Andrew Adams



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