Wednesday , July 23, 2014 - 5:24 PM
CLINTON — Three small aircraft happened to fly overhead Clinton City Park as family, friends and neighbors gathered for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night for Daulton and Jaxon Whatcott, two brothers tragically killed in a small engine plane crash near the Utah-Arizona border Sunday.
That didn't escape Syracuse High School Principal Wendy Nelson, who sounded confident those who knew and loved the boys could find a way to extract the sweet from the bitter of that coincidence.
"I've never seen a stronger family. They've been comforting these kids for two days," she said, motioning to the dozens of teenagers remaining from the hundreds who attended the vigil.
The mourning ritual was quiet and simple. Daulton and Jaxon's friends awaited his family's arrival, embraced them when they arrived, joined in prayer, lit candles and signed jerseys and basketballs in honor of the two boys.
Daulton, 19, was a Syracuse High 2013 graduate and 16-year-old Jaxon would have been a junior at the school this fall. The two left Bountiful on a trip to Las Vegas for Jaxon's upcoming competitive-league basketball tournament when their 1969 single-engine Cessna crashed near the Virgin River Gorge from an unknown cause.
The brothers were known for their love of basketball — and were plenty good at it too. Jaxon was expected to carry a heavy scoring load for the team the coming year.
"Both of them were very skilled basketball players," said Syracuse High head basketball coach Troy Anderson, who coached both brothers. "You have guys who are shooters, you have guys who are rebounders. ... They were really the whole package."
The two made friends at every turn, Anderson said.
"They were fun-loving young men. You can see here from the turnout," he said. "They had a ton of friends. ... You see a lot of the student body here, the students and their parents."
A subdued murmur of conversation was punctured by soft sobs at the gathering, where friends of Daulton and Jaxon embraced each other and looked on with swollen eyes.
Everyone is doing their best to rally around each other, Anderson said.
"The idea behind this tonight is to show support to a family that's hurting," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Nelson called in a grief counselor from Davis Behavioral Health to help the students, many of whom are experiencing the death of a close friend for the first time.
"I felt it could have helped a bit," Nelson said.
The counselor advised teenagers to stick to their schedules as much as possible as a way to deal with their grief in the aftermath.
"She said it's the best way to push through something like that," Nelson said. "She was very gracious ... letting them come to her."
The plane left from the Bountiful SkyPark Airport, stopped in Beaver and was heading for Mesquite, Nev. when it crashed at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are looking into what contributed to the crash. It may be months before those findings are released.
Contact reporter Ben Lockhart at 801-625-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Lockhart. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/blockhartSE.
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