Four people who died in a northern Arizona plane crash had planned to eat lunch and sight-see in Sedona before their plane went down in a remote canyon, the pilot's father told The Associated Press.
Jonathan McGreary of Flagstaff was flying the single-engine Cessna when it crashed Sunday and sparked a small fire, Dennis McGreary said Wednesday. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause.
Dennis McGreary said the passengers included Levi Wallace of Prescott, a woman from Canada and another woman from Germany.
He said the four met through Christian youth camps and stayed at his Flagstaff home over the weekend. He said they were vibrant, full of promise and deeply devoted to God.
"For us, God took those children home," he said.
Jonathan McGreary, 22, earned his private pilot's certificate in 2011, Federal Aviation Administration records show. He was home-schooled in Flagstaff and had dreams of becoming a commercial or helicopter pilot but was working as a heavy equipment operator in town, his father said.
Wallace was looking forward to becoming a physical therapist this fall after completing schooling in Tucson, Dennis McGreary said. The two families were close friends, he said.
The four on the plane had talked about visiting the Grand Canyon before settling on Sedona, McGreary said. They had attended a church service earlier Sunday in Flagstaff.
The plane crashed around 3 p.m. Hikers reported seeing a low-flying plane go over a ridge and disappear, followed by the sound of a crash and smoke rising from the canyon, Yavapai County sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said.
Authorities have not released the identities of the four on board.
Investigators were expected to recover the wreckage Wednesday, but a determination on what exactly happened could take months, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said. The investigation will include a review of maintenance records, log books, medical certifications and the flight history of the pilot. A preliminary report is expected by next week, he said.
Dennis McGreary said one of his son's friends heard about the crash on the radio and called Jonathan's younger brother to tell him the news. McGreary said he had hoped it wasn't his son's plane.
"Then I thought for a moment, `would you want it to be someone else's?' and I thought `no,"' he said, adding that he was "very sorry for the other families."
McGreary said he has spoken to the other families and none gave any indication that they believed the crash was his son's fault.
"I was so impressed with how gracious they were, being the father of the pilot, and Levi's father's response to me was that God doesn't make mistakes," he said. "There's just no question that the other parents and children believed it with all their heart."