MORGAN — Darren Tidwell’s younger sister remembers him as a man she loved and trusted, one who lived his life to the fullest at every moment.
“Every moment was an adventure,” Sheryl Tidwell Rushton, of Sandy, said about her brother, a pilot who was killed Thursday when his single-engine plane crashed into a nearby mountain.
Tidwell, 50, took off from Morgan County Airport early Thursday morning. Reports vary, but it appears he left at about 8 a.m. The Huntsville manufacturing engineer regularly flew his yellow Grumman AA1 aircraft to Logan, but this time his plane crashed about five miles north of the runway.
“He took off on (runway) three, went up the canyon and didn’t make it over the top,” said Joe Garfield, Morgan County Airport manager.
Janalee Tidwell, Darren Tidwell’s wife of 23 years, came to the airport at 4 p.m. and said her husband hadn’t come home. Garfield and another pilot flew to Logan and back three times — once in a straight line, then twice in zigzags — before Garfield glimpsed the downed aircraft.
Garfield saved the coordinates on his iPhone, but flew back to the crash site with the Life Flight helicopter when they were unable to locate the scene because of the challenging terrain. The Grumman’s emergency beacon did not activate because the aircraft burned. Tidwell’s body was recovered about 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
Garfield and investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board retrieved the engine by 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The propeller was bent and covered with dirt from the impact when Garfield transported the engine to a hangar for temporary storage.
Tidwell leaves three sons and three daughters, ages 14 to 22. His parents, Ray and Karen Tidwell, have now been called home from a mission they were serving in Palmyra, N.Y. One son will briefly come home from a mission in Tampico, Mexico, and another will return from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“He was a good father, a good brother, a good son who cared for his parents,” said Rushton.
His wife, Janalee Tidwell, said her husband loved to fly and conveyed this message through her sister-in-law:
“I want to express my love and appreciation for the support and outpouring of care and kindness from our friends in the community.”