WEST JORDAN Employees of a Utah-based humanitarian organization were in mourning Monday over the deaths of 11 people killed in a plane crash, including three Utahns, near Guatemala while on a mission to deliver aid to some of the villages.
"We're brokenhearted," said CHOICE Humanitarian volunteer board member Lew Swain.
Swain did not want to release the names of those involved in the crash Monday, saying his group wanted to give the families time to mourn in peace. KSL-TV, however, confirmed those who died were Liz Johnson of Salt Lake County, John Carter of Morgan County and Cody Odekirk of Weber County.
Johnson, who was taken to a hospital in Guatemala where she died Sunday night, was the expedition leader for this trip. Although not naming her by name, Swain said the woman who led the expedition was "a great gal responsible for numerous expeditions."
A family from Wisconsin, including a mother, father, daughter and son, were headed to El Estor to build homes for CHOICE Humanitarian. The father and brother were also reportedly among the dead.
"These are good people. They have been on multiple humanitarian efforts. They really wanted to make a difference," Swain said.
Others killed were the guides for CHOICE, Javier and Walfred Rabanales of Guatemala. Swain said the Rabanales were people of the highest character who have helped with expeditions for years.
"These are all good people whose lives were affected by what they saw," he said. "In 25 years, we've never had this kind of a disaster."
A fourth Utahn on the plane, Dan Liljenquist of Bountiful, survived the crash, coming away with just a broken leg.
"It's just amazing that he's alive and that his injuries are so minimal," Brooke Liljenquist said from their Bountiful home. "We feel extremely blessed."
Dan Liljenquist was leading a group of humanitarian workers from his company, Focus Services. The CHOICE expedition was en route to the Alta Verapez region to help build a classroom in the village of Sepamac.
Sarah Jensen, a 19-year-old who suffered minor cuts and bruises, said she and her family were headed to a village to build homes for CHOICE Humanitarian, an aid group based in West Jordan.
Her brother and father, Roger Jensen, were killed, and her mother had serious burns and contusions. The family is from Amery, Wis., Jensen told The Associated Press in a brief hospital interview.
Roger Jensen, 48, was the maintenance manager at Smyth Companies in St. Paul, Minn., for 12 years, Chief Executive Officer John Hickey said Monday.
"He did everything. He was a carpenter. A multi-purpose utility player. He was a very popular employee, forever upbeat," Hickey said. "He was very giving. I think he was in Africa last year."
Hickey said Jensen helped pay for his family's trip by recovering copper pipe from a facility being closed by the company, which prints consumer product labels.9 comments on this story
"We thought the world of this guy," he said. "He was just a bright light in the company."
Two Guatemalan pilots also died in the crash. A pilot called in engine trouble about 45 minutes after takeoff and tried to make an emergency landing, Guatemalan Civil Aviation director Jose Carlos said.Swain said once the group officially releases the names of the victims, there may be a trust fund set up to help their families. CHOICE Humanitarian makes several expeditions a year to countries such as Bolivia, Kenya and Nepal to help fight poverty.