CEDAR CITY It was a typical birthday party for a 7-year-old: About 10 children and their parents gathered at a neighborhood park. The children played games and ate cake and ice cream, and the birthday boy opened his presents.
All the while, the boy's mother, Andrea White, did her best to keep up appearances that everything was OK, even though her husband and the boy's father, David White, was one of 10 Cedar City area residents killed in a plane crash on Friday, the day before the party.
Andrea, a teacher at Canyon View Middle School in Cedar City, made the decision to talk with her son Christopher after the party because she didn't want him to associate his birthday with the crash for the rest of his life.
"He (Christopher) knew something was up during the day because David was supposed to be home Friday night and he didn't come home," she said. "And he didn't even ask me Saturday morning where he was. He didn't ask me anything at all. I think he probably knew somewhere deep down."
David White, 41, was the pilot of the Hawker Beechcraft that went down shortly before 6 p.m. Friday near the Canyonlands Field Airport. Investigators believe everyone inside the plane was killed immediately. The plane was transporting employees of Red Canyon Aesthetics and Medical Spa dermatology clinic. Employees were based in Cedar City but frequently made trips to rural clinics. Others killed were: Dr. Lansing Ellsworth, 50; Dallin Ellsworth, 23; David Goddard, 60; Cecilee Goddard, 31; Mandy Johnson, 20; Marci Tillery, 29; Valerie Imlay, 52; Keith Shumway, 26; and Camie Vigil, 32.
A community vigil was held Monday night at Southern Utah University, where many victims were students or alumni. About 500 people attended. The school provided counselors for people who needed someone to talk with. Monday was the first day of fall semester.
"Tonight we're experiencing history, one of the greatest tragedies to hit Cedar City," said SUU Dean of Students Dale Orton.
"To be alive today is a privilege," SUU President Michael Benson said. "It's a blessing, and we bring honor to the memory of these 10 individuals by the lives we live and the service we render."
At the White home, Andrea has decided to take a week off from teaching eighth-graders English to mourn for David. Her students made her brightly colored purple, pink, yellow and green cards with messages promising to hug her when she returns.
David and Andrea met in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. For 20 years, David was in the Air Force, on active duty and in the reserves, working as an avionics technician and attaining the rank of master sergeant. He served two tours in the Persian Gulf and spent three months in Bosnia and Kosovo. In addition to son Christopher, David leaves behind son Riley, 2, and a boy and girl, ages 14 and 13, from another marriage. They live in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
After David earned a bachelor's degree and pilot's license, the family moved to Cedar City so David could become a flight instructor. He soon met members of the Leavitt family and got a job working for a subsidiary of the Leavitt Group, an insurance company that does business in 130 offices throughout the United States. The Leavitts had a contract to fly staff with the dermatology clinic, said Eric Leavitt, president of The Leavitt Group. Andrea said her husband had more than 2,000 hours flying the Hawker Beechcraft.
David didn't file a flight plan but usually didn't when his flights were within Utah. None of the victim's families have blamed her for the crash, but she's antsy for the the National Transportation Safety Board investigation to be released because she thinks it'll clear David if there's any suspicion," Andrea said.
Family members met with a NTSB representative in Cedar City on Monday, who told them the investigation will take weeks and the final investigation report will take possibly a year.
Why did the plane go down?"They have ideas," Andrea said. "It's one of those things, they don't want to say this or that because it could all change."
Those with memories of the 10 people who died in Friday's plane crash outside Moab can share their thoughts at www.cedarcondolences.blogspot.com.
Cedar City government is planning a memorial service at the Centrum basketball center at Southern Utah University on Thursday at 7 p.m.
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