More than 100 people gathered on Friday evening to remember the lives of CHOICE Humanitarian workers who died in a plane crash in Guatemala on Sunday.
Eleven people were killed in the crash, including three Utahns: expedition leader Liz Valentiner-Johnson, of Cottonwood Heights; Cody Odekirk, of Ogden; and John Carter, of Morgan.
The group was en route to finish a school in Guatemala when their plane had engine trouble and crashed. The passengers were volunteers who had paid their own way to Guatemala, and they also financed some of the building materials for the school, said Tim Valentiner, a brother of Liz Valentiner-Johnson.
At the memorial service Friday at CHOICE Humanitarian's office in West Jordan, CHOICE board member Lew Swain said those who died loved humanitarian work. He urged people to continue to volunteer, because that is what the victims would want.
Tim Valentiner agreed: "The best way to honor them is to continue," he said.
He said his sister loved to help people. She left her husband and three children behind.
Her husband, Chris Johnson, spoke of his wife as a "beam of light," as he held his sobbing son, Asher, who clung to his neck.
"She left me with three amazing beams of light," Johnson said, referring to their children. And he said she died doing what she loved.
Lloyd Odekirk said his son Cody Odekirk loved to fly and do volunteer work, and he, too, died doing what he loved.
"I just want everybody to know I don't want anybody to feel sorry for us," Odekirk said. He burst into tears and thanked the crowd for coming.
As the sun set, candles were lit to honor the dead. Swain said "our friends and family are in a safe and joyous place."
Thal Dixon remembered his brother-in-law Javier Rabeneles, who was the Guatemalan director of CHOICE Humanitarian, and Rabaneles' wife, Walfred Rabeneles, both of whom died. He said they "have the light of Christ" and said such special people rarely come into one's life.The Rabeneles left behind three children.
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