'Inseparable' Clinton brothers killed in plane crash on way to tournament
Dozens of distraught friends, family gather to mourn, remember
Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
CLINTON — Rhett Whatcott wept as he looked out at the dozens of young, mournful faces crowded into the living room of his sons' basketball coach.
"Give your parents a kiss and a hug," he told them Monday evening, his voice broken by sobs and met by anguished cries around the room.
Then he turned to the adults. "Parents, tell your kids you love them."
The bodies of his two sons — Daulton Whatcott, 19, and Jaxon Whatcott, 16, of Clinton — had been recovered just a few hours earlier. The two boys, whom friends called "inseparable," were killed in a plane crash as they flew from Davis County to Las Vegas to attend a basketball tournament.
"At least they're together," their father said.
The Whatcott brothers' single-engine Cessna 172 went down about 7:30 p.m. Sunday in a rocky and steep terrain area along the Arizona Strip, about 150 feet off I-15 just south of the Virgin River Gorge.
The plane was registered to a company in Bountiful, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. It had last taken off from Beaver and was en route to Mesquite, Nevada, when it crashed.
A Snapchat photo of the boys posing in front of the plane apparently just before it took off was posted on their father's Facebook page Monday.
"God took home two of his shining stars yesterday. Daulton Rey Whatcott and Jaxon we love you forever and miss you until we see you again. Many thanks to the outpouring of love and support. They were loved by all and I'm so thankful they had such great friends," Rhett Whatcott wrote on his Facebook wall.
Dozens of friends, teammates and classmates from Syracuse High School came to the vigil Monday, their cars lining the streets near Trent Whiting's West Point home. Whiting, who coached both brothers in basketball, comforted the flow of mourners as they came through the door.
Some stood in the backyard and wept quietly. Others cried openly, embracing one another in fierce hugs and shaking sobs. One small group gathered on the porch, laughing quietly as they recalled post-game antics together and an episode searching for lost car keys.
"There were so many emotions running high for so many of these young adults," Whiting said. "It just seemed that everyone was reaching out to each other and wanting to meet up. It just seemed like the right thing to do to allow them all to be together."
Like many who attended the vigil, Whiting dressed in a white shirt and tie. He encouraged all who came to share their feelings by writing down memories of Daulton and Jaxon for the boys' family. The growing stack of cards was to be presented to the Whatcott family in a memorial chest.
"Daulton and Jaxon were like one person and the same," Whiting said. "They were the most positive, energetic players. It didn't matter the practice, it didn't matter the game. They were always positive and always kept everyone's spirits up."
Whiting said he wasn't surprised at the amount of friends who came to remember the two outgoing brothers, but he marvelled at the diversity in the group.
"There's a mixture of every type of student, teammate, classmate. That's just who they are, they reached out to so many different types of people," Whiting said. "You can see tonight just an amazing variety of kids they were able to reach out to and touch in so many different ways."
Friends and neighbors also stopped by the parents' house Monday to offer their condolences. Jaden Carlson hung ribbons around the Whatcotts' property.
"It's hard. It's shocking to know that they're just gone, to know that you can't really get a goodbye, and you think about your last moment with them. They were such amazing boys that we know they wouldn't want us being upset and being a mess. We're trying to stay tough for them because they were always so happy," she said while fighting back tears.
"They were goofballs, but they were so much fun."
Daulton graduated in 2013 and was currently a student at Utah State University. In May, his mother posted on her Facebook page that he had recently received his pilot's license. According to family spokeswoman Taunie Reynolds, Daulton was excited to pursue a career as a commercial pilot.
"He was an amazing athlete and played many sports in his high school career at Syracuse High School. He will be remembered for his harmonica playing and his charming personality," she said.
Carlson said even though Daulton hadn't had his license for a long time, he was an experienced pilot and had completed several solo flights.
"He took a lot of people out on flights. Instead of Sunday drives, he would go flying on Sunday. He'd skip classes and go flying. He loved it," she said. "There's no way he could have just been distracted. He knew what he was doing and he was cautious, and he knew he had to be cautious to keep the people he loved safe."
She said Daulton was flying Jaxon to Vegas so he could attend his basketball tournament. Their parents were driving and planned to meet them in Mesquite. The brothers landed in Beaver because of weather concerns and called their parents before continuing on, Reynolds said.
"When they didn't arrive, their parents started worrying," she said. "Then one thing led to another and they found out what had happened."
Jaxon was about to start his junior year at Syracuse.
"He had a very large circle of friends and was adored by all who knew him. Jaxon was fun loving and made everyone around him laugh," Reynolds said.
The boys are survived by their parents, Rhett and Eileen Whatcott, older brother Dace Whatcott and younger sister Aubri Whatcott.
"As you can imagine, their family is feeling a very intense loss at this time," Reynolds said, adding that the family is "grateful for all of the thoughts and prayers."
The National Transportation Safety Board, along with the FAA, were investigating the cause of the crash, while the Mohave County Sheriff's Office was assisting in other areas.
The wreckage came to rest on a ledge. Recovery crews had to hike to the area to reach it. Reynolds shared the Whatcott family's appreciation for those who efforted the recovery efforts Monday.
Contributing: Sandra Yi
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