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PANGUITCH — A plane carrying a Sandy man and his two children that was reported missing Sunday was likely flying too low when it crashed and killed all three on board, police said Monday.
Iron County Sheriff Mark O. Gower said a debris field was located near the lower Bear Valley area northwest of Panguitch by a police helicopter shortly after 11 a.m. Monday.
Police were able to land where the debris was and confirm that all three on board the plane, Randall "Randy" Wells, 41, and his two young children, Asher, 8, and Sara, 3, had died. A GoFundMe* account was created Monday afternoon for Wells' pregnant wife, who didn't make the flight to Arizona with the family that had flown to Phoenix for a wedding.
Wells was the bishop of the Mount Jordan 3rd Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Spencer Wright, the second counselor to Wells in the ward's bishopric, traveled several hours to southern Utah along with other members of the ward to help search for the plane.
"You're not going to find a better guy than Randy Wells and he'd do anything for anybody," Wright said. "It was a selfless attitude first and that's why these people are here."
Word of the plane crash spread through the Mount Jordan 3rd Ward Sunday, leaving those in the congregation in disbelief. Lori Scow, who has been in the ward for the past two years, said the church's sacrament meeting was held as usual before members were sent home early and encouraged to pray for the Wells family.
Wells was described as an experienced pilot who had spoken about flying often.
"I definitely had a lot of hope that everything would turn out differently," said Wendy Davis, who added she has known the Wells family for about 10 years. "If anyone could have landed that plane and survived, it would have been him. That's what gave a lot of us hope. We just knew how resourceful he was."
Members of the ward also recalled how kind and loving Wells was. Davis said Wells used to go around the block to check on all the elderly residents in the neighborhood and make sure they were doing well.
"He was always there to make sure that your needs were met. He was just the most awesome bishop," Scow said.
Scow said Wells conducted her daughter's wedding and that Asher Wells would come over to her house and sing every once and while.
"He, his kids and his wife — they were just very lovely people," she said.
A ward-only meeting was planned for Monday night. Wright said the focus now shifts to caring for Wells' wife and the Wells family.
"They need that support," he said. "That's our job is to help. It's impossible to fill a Randy-sized hole in our lives but you know we're going to do the best we can."
The early investigation
Police said Wells' plane disappeared before 9 a.m. Sunday, roughly 17 miles northwest of Panguitch near Sandy Peak and Little Creek Peak.
Wells was due back at 10 p.m. Saturday, according to Ryan Kitterman, a family friend. Wells' phone last pinged near Panguitch about 11 p.m., Kitterman said.
Searchers from six counties were looking for the plane Sunday and against Monday morning until the wreckage was found.
The focus from officials now is determining what caused the crash. Gower said early indications are the plane was flying too low when it crashed into the mountainous terrain.
"He got up there and realized his elevation was too low and was trying to bank back around and come back out the way he came and he didn't have the elevation he needed to come back out," Gower said.
Gower added it was dark Saturday night with some squalls moving through the area at the time.
Those conditions were being considered as possible factors in the crash, Gower said.
Contributing: Ladd Egan, Nicole Vowell
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.