SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man who died when he flew a plane into his own house after he had been arrested for assaulting his wife had full access to his employer’s plane because he had earned the firm’s trust, the president of the Utah company said Tuesday.
Duane Youd, 47, was a “rock-solid” employee and a good person during 13 months as company pilot, Leon Van Sickle told The Associated Press. He is the president of the VanCon, Inc., a general engineering company.
He said Youd had the digital access code to the airplane hangar, though he had no idea he would take the plane early Monday. Youd was a stellar pilot who flew employees to business meetings around North America in the company’s only plane, a twin-engine Cessna 525, Van Sickle said.
“He’s the manager of the plane,” Van Sickle said. “He had full access to it. . . It all boils to trust. I don’t know what we would have done different. He flies with our lives at stake and we thoroughly trusted him beyond measure. He took great care of us. He never took chances. Everything was by the book.”
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The crash occurred at about 2:30 a.m. Monday in Payson, a city of about 20,000 people about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City. He had posted bail just hours earlier after being arrested after witnesses reporting seeing him assault his wife, authorities said.
His wife and her 24-year-old son escaped as the two-story house became engulfed in flames, authorities said They had not disclosed how Youd gained access to the company plane.
Youd took the plane out of a hangar at the small Spanish Fork-Springville Airport, where there are no air towers or traffic control monitoring of who takes off or lands, said airport manager Cris Child.
Van Sickle said he heard rumblings that Youd was having some marital problems but that he never fathomed he would do what he did. He was not aware of the domestic violence incident Sunday night or another one in April, he said.
“I couldn’t’ believe it. It’s unbelievable,” Van Sickle said. “The guy was just golden. He was rock solid. You just can’t even fathom this. It’s just so tragic.”
Payson police Sgt. Noemi Sandoval said Monday that investigators believe Youd hit his house intentionally.
Having surveyed the wreckage and knowing Youd as a pilot, Van Sickle said he agrees it was intentional. He noted that Youd had to fly under high-voltage power lines and avoid other houses to hit his own house without causing any more damage.
“That took some skill,” Van Sickle said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
The FAA has no records of previous accidents, incidents or enforcement actions against Youd, said agency spokesman Ian Gregor.
It is the second bizarre airplane incident in recent days. On Friday an employee stole a turboprop plane from Sea-Tac International Airport in Seattle and flew it for more than an hour before dying in a crash on an island southwest of Tacoma.
This story has been corrected based on updated information from police to show that the other person in the house was the woman’s 24-year-old son, not a child.