Javier and Walfred Rabanales, the Guatemala Country Director and his wife are two of the fatal victims in the plane crash Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008 in Guatemala.

Following a 24-hour wake and memorial service, the two directors of the CHOICE Humanitarian group in Guatemala were laid to rest Tuesday morning.

Javier and Walfred Rabanales were two of the 11 people killed in a plane crash Sunday in Guatemala during an emergency landing. The pilot had reportedly radioed that he was having engine problems just before the crash.

Three Utahns were also killed in the tragedy. All were part of either the groups CHOICE Humanitarian or Focus Services who were on a joint expedition to help impoverished areas in the Guatemala area.

Trust funds have now been established to help the families of the victims, some of whom leave behind spouses and children.

The Rabanales are survived by three teenage children. A trust fund has been set up at all Wells Fargo banks in Utah. Donations can be made to the CHOICE Guatemala Memorial Fund.

"They were fantastic individuals," said John Winger, a former CHOICE Humanitarian board member still actively involved with the group. "Before (Javier) joined CHOICE, he was unemployed. He was truly helping people and doing that service on his own, even though he was unemployed."

Winger estimated there were between 2,500 and 3,000 people in Utah and some surrounding states that had taken a CHOICE expedition to Guatemala, and every one of them knew Javier and Walfred.

Even when the family had vacation time, they would often travel to other villages and stay for a while to help the people of that region.

"They are just a neat family," Winger said.

Javier was active in the LDS Church and had served in the past as a stake president and bishop in Guatemala.

Trust funds have also been established at all Zions Banks for John Carter and Cody Odekirk of Utah. Both men worked for the Roy-based Focus group. Carter lived in Morgan County, while Odekirk lived in Weber County.

"These are people who care about people. These are people who wanted to go and wanted to make a difference," said Focus President John Porter.

Carter was the information/technology officer for Focus and part of the executive management team.

"He was a significant part of our success," Porter said. "From a business perspective, it's a significant loss. But infinitely more important is the loss from a personal perspective. These are people we loved and cared about."

Porter, who attended the same church as Carter, said he was a "wonderful family man" who was very involved with his children. He took his wife on a small getaway just before he left for Guatemala so they could have some time together, Porter said.

When not with his family, Carter could be found in the outdoors, snowboarding, playing soccer or building something with his hands.

"He was one of those guys who can figure out just about anything," Porter said.

Also killed in the crash from the Focus group were Jeff Reppe and Lydia Silva from Illinois. Donations to their funds can be made at any Sauk Valley Bank in Illinois.

A fifth Focus employee, the group's chief operating officer, survived the crash and was in a Guatemalan hospital Tuesday with both his legs broken in multiple places. He has already had multiple surgeries, Porter said.

"He is very optimistic about his future, but his spirits are not high," he said.

Porter said the focus has been on the survivors, the victims and their families, and he has not talked yet with those who were on the plane about what happened.

Other reports through eyewitness and other accounts have started to come out. For many, like Winger, the details are hard to hear.

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The Rabanales actually survived the plane crash, Winger said. But they were unable to get out of the plane before it exploded into a huge fireball.

The third Utahn killed in the crash was Liz Johnson, the expedition leader and wife of Chris Johnson, the acting leader of CHOICE.

There were a total of 14 people on the plane, including the two pilots. Only three survived, including Dan Liljenquist of Bountiful.

Also killed were Roger Jensen and his son, Zachary, of Wisconsin. Jensen's 19-year-old daughter was one of the survivors.

The two pilots were also killed.

"Each of these individuals were remarkable people that were making significant contributions in each aspect of life. We are deeply deeply saddened by their loss and grateful for the legacy they left," Porter said.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com