Utah County sheriff's sergeant killed in plane crash near Spanish Fork
News of death came just before funeral for slain Draper officer
"Even dealing with the angry and belligerent, he was that guy who always just had a calm confident spark and was polite — he said, 'Yes, sir' and 'No, sir,'" Patey said. "That is just the way he was, that quiet confidence."
Cannon and Tracy said Lessley was an accomplished officer and a leader admired by his colleagues. He was a sergeant assigned as a supervisor over court security at Utah County’s 4th District Court and joined Utah County's SMART — Subtance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team, a volunteer coalition working to curb drug abuse in the county.
He spent the last nine years with the sheriff’s office, where he embraced a variety of leadership and supervisory training positions.
Lessley's expertise ran the gamut, including teaching drug recognition, field sobriety testing, and accompanying new officers as their field training officer, as well as serving as a hostage negotiator and emergency vehicle operator teacher.
Since February of 2012, he had been assigned to work for the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office in his capacity as a law enforcement officer, investigating unattended or suspicious deaths.
His profile on LinkedIn says he’d been a certified flight instructor at the Spanish Fork-based Diamond Flight Center since March of 2009.
Lessley was a graduate of Brigham Young University, where he spent his first four years in law enforcement. He had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public administration. He served an LDS mission to Georgia and South Carolina and in a personal biography noted that he may have been the only police officer in Utah County to have performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at multiple venues.
According to his Facebook page, Lessley was a fan of SkyCraft planes. SkyCraft manufactures SD-1 Minisports at its Orem location. Allen Kenitzer, spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration, said Lessley was piloting a SD-1 Minisport, a Czech Republic-designed plane that was a kit built in Orem.
Kenitzer said the FAA registry shows it was a brand new plane as of January 2013, and Tracy added that Lessley was working at the request of others to test the worthiness of the plane.
Patey noted that Lessley was an "exceptional pilot" who had more than 1,000 hours of flight time. Unlike some in the field, Lessley was an instructor beyond just to get the additional flying time and to make money, Patey said.
When an aerobatic plane needed to be flown to Texas for its new owner, Lessley was picked for the job, and Patey went up with him on a test flight.
"I went up with him in that aerobatic airplane and it was 30 seconds and that plane was his. He could make it do anything he wanted."
Tracy said some of the safety features on the plane deployed during the crash, which will be part of the investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA.
A tribute to Lessley has been put up by the Heroes Memorial Foundation.
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