Hundreds honor Clinton brothers killed in Arizona plane crash

Wednesday , July 30, 2014 - 5:33 PM

SYRACUSE — A table of the brothers’ favorite foods, including Waffle Crisp and fruit snacks, lined one table. Another held sports jerseys and basketballs. Elsewhere, not far from where two closed caskets stood for viewing, were displayed snowboarding equipment and a cardboard cutout of a teenage boy playing lacrosse.

Photos of 19-year-old Daulton and 16-year-old Jaxon Whatcott, the Clinton brothers who were killed in a small-engine plane crash near the Utah-Arizona border earlier this month, lined the railing of the gym’s upper level.

Music softly played with a slideshow chronicling the Whatcott brothers’ childhood as some visitors sat somberly in the bleachers and others embraced the boys’ family.

Two treasured quotes from Daulton and Jaxon were also prominently displayed. Daulton’s: “Everything is going to be all right, always.” Jaxon’s: “I’m going on an adventure!”

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The scene was Tuesday’s viewing for Daulton and Jaxon at the Syracuse High School gymnasium, where hundreds came to pay their respects.

Diante Mitchell was one of several childhood friends to break down in tears Tuesday as he commiserated with the boys’ father and stood silently for minutes at a time at each display.

Mitchell met Daulton when he was 7, and played little league football with and against the two brothers for years. Later, Daulton was Mitchell’s teammate on the Syracuse High School basketball team.

In recent weeks, Daulton wistfully said he’d love to join Mitchell in Nebraska, where Mitchell plays basketball for Western Nebraska Community College.

“We grew up through sports. But it wasn’t all about sports,” Mitchell told the Standard-Examiner.

“We were going to hang out no matter what. There were no cliques with us, no stereotypes with us. ... When you say they lived life to the fullest, they really did.”

Mitchell, now 19, is a good friend of the whole Whatcott family. He said he was amazed by the family’s resiliency. The boys’ parents could be seen consoling others throughout the viewing.

“They’re about the best a family could be right now,” Mitchell said. “Even though Daulton was a brother to me, I can’t imagine losing two sons.”

Other friends who were there to mourn gave almost identical descriptions of Daulton and Jaxon, saying their gift for reaching out to others was truly extraordinary.

“When they both walked into a room, all eyes on them, that’s how blessed they were,” said Miles Nasbitt, who graduated with Daulton.

Nasbitt was just 6 when he met Daulton. The two played together in several sports, including football, basketball, baseball and soccer.

“I met him at T-ball practice,” Nasbitt said, fighting back emotion. “I think that speaks for itself.”

Abey Bowden, who is entering her senior year at Syracuse High School, was one of Jaxon’s close friends. Jaxon and Daulton used their magnetic personalities to include everyone, she said.

“They made you feel like you were their best friend, even if you weren’t,” Bowden said.

“You always knew when a Whatcott boy entered the room. ... They were goofballs, loved life, weren’t afraid of anything. ... They were darling. Good boys. Cute boys.”

His facial expressions were one of the quirks Bowden loved about Jaxon.

“His many faces, he could pull any face,” Bowden said, a smile puncturing her tearful expression. “He always had a joke, he always knew what to say.”

DeLane Barr, another Syracuse High student, said her boyfriend, who is serving an LDS mission, was best friends with Daulton.

“He said he’s just trusting God’s plan,” Barr said of her boyfriend, adding she believes the Whatcotts’ Mormon faith has carried them through the grief.

“I think that’s what’s holding them together,” she said. “They’ve been really strong.”

Finding closure has been hard, Bowden said, but Tuesday’s viewing went a long way in comforting family and friends.

“This helps,” she said, gesturing to the gathering. “This has been really good.”

The small, single-engine 1960 Cessna that Daulton Whatcott was piloting went down just a short distance from the Virgin River Gorge on the evening of July 20. The two were headed to Las Vegas for a competitive league basketball tournament for Jaxon.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the accident. It may be months before the findings are released.

Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or blockhart@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at SE_Lockhart. Like his Facebook page at facebook.com/blockhartSE.

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