CLINTON — Daulton Whatcott recently acquired his private pilot’s license and was doing what older brothers do best — take care of their younger brother.
On Sunday, Daulton Rey Whatcott, 19, the pilot and Jaxon McKee Whatcott, 16, were headed to Las Vegas for Jaxon’s competitive league basketball tournament when something went wrong with the 1969 single-engine Cessna airplane.
The two Clinton teens were killed when their airplane, flown out of Bountiful, crashed and burned in steep terrain above the Virgin River Gorge on Sunday.
Daulton was a student at Utah State University and was interested in pursuing a career in commercial piloting.
Family friend Taunie Reynolds told the Standard-Examiner that the brothers were very active and athletic.
“Daulton was my brother’s best friend,” said Ricki Anderson through her tears at the teens’ memorial Monday evening. Anderson represented her brother who is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “So he would spend a lot of time with our family. They were always to happy and fun to be around.”
“Daulton was just one of the friendliest kids you’ll ever meet,” Anderson said. “He accepted everyone for who they were and was just a happy, easy-going kid.”
Jaxon was a junior at Syracuse High School and had a passion for basketball.
"They were so uplifting — Jaxon was amazing at basketball,” said Blake van derStappen, who played basketball with Jaxon for West Point Jr. High school and often hangs out with Jaxon’s younger sister, Aubri Whatcott. “There was one game - the season opener - against North Layton and I remember he put up like 30 plus points in just one game -- it was amazing. He was always the personality of the locker room.”
The two teen brothers were well known and loved throughout the community, Reynolds said. Hundreds showed up to the pay their respects to the Whatcott family during the memorial held in West Point at Jaxon’s basketball coach’s home.
The boys are survived by their parents, Rhett and Eileen Whatcott, an older brother, Dace and younger sister, Aubri.
The unexpected tragedy has left the family devastated.
"I can’t believe this,” Aubri said to her friends as she sobbed outside the home during the memorial.
The crash happened about 150 feet south of Interstate-15 south of the Virgin River Gorge. Mojave County Sheriff’s office deputies confirmed the two people onboard did not survive and were the only occupants.
FAA spokesman, Ian Gregor said a single-engine Cessna 172 crashed and burned under “unknown circumstances” near Littlefield, Ariz., around 7:30 p.m.
Local authorities from the Mohave County Sheriff’s office reported the two people on board the 1969 fixed-wing single-engine plane were killed.
The plane left from the Bountiful SkyPark Airport and stopped in Beaver before heading onto Mesquite, Nev.
The plane is registered to D&G Aircraft Leasing LLC., out of Bountiful.
According to the FAA’s website, the same airplane, based on the N-number, had a brake malfunction and veered off the taxiway in Provo just two weeks prior.
The actual cause of the accident has yet to be determined. The NTSB and FAA investigated the crash site on Monday. A report on the actual cause typically won’t be available for several months.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John T. Bottoms said that crews hiked to reach the plane, which was on a ledge, and used water backpacks to extinguish a small fire sparked by the crash. The remains of the victims have been recovered, Mohave County sheriff’s spokeswoman Trish Carter said.
A candlelight vigil will be held Tuesday night at Clinton City Park on the Lacrosse fields at 9:30 p.m., 2267 N. 1500 West Clinton.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Andreas Rivera and Morgan Briesmaster contributed to this story.