Plane crash kills two residents

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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An ultra light plane crashed Monday night just outside of the Lincoln Regional Airport, killing two Lincoln residents. Police and fire personnel responded to the scene, where Michael Scott Gorden, 44, and Tara Lynn Riggins, 37, were pronounced dead Monday night. Gorden was the registered owner of the plane, a Rans Coyotte II. “The plane had departed from Lincoln for a local pleasure flight and the pilot was planning to return to Lincoln,” said Ian Gregor, a spokesperson for the FAA, on Tuesday. Gorden was believed to be piloting the plane at the time of the crash, according to Gregor. “We’re all wondering what could have happened because of his record of maintaining the mechanical safety of his planes,” said John Rayl, a friend of Gorden, on Wednesday. “He was very thorough and wasn’t a show off. He was always very worried about being responsible.” Rayl said he knew Gorden for about eight years. They worked together at Hewlett Packard’s Roseville location as engineers. Gorden was a tech engineer at Hewlett Packard at the time of his death, according to Rayl. “He was always happy, looking to have fun with friends and family, and he was always inviting people to come boating or go flying,” Rayl said. Rayl said Gorden owned a Cessna and the Rans Coyotte II, and flying was Gorden’s “passion.” “Even though he was a very jovial kind of guy, always making jokes and having fun, when he got in the plane, all that went away, and he was the pilot. He was very serious,” said Rayl, who had flown with Gorden. Rayl said Gorden kept “good safety records and logs,” and “really k new how to control the plane.” “Mike just really enjoyed going on a nice flight this time of year,” Rayl said. “He liked to see the great expanse of nature from the sky.” Riggins and Gorden had been dating since 2007, according to Rayl, and Gorden has a college-age daughter from a previous marriage. “They would spend time together flying,” Rayl said. “They were pretty happy together and did spend a lot of time together.” Gorden also watched over his parents, according to Rayl, and would “drop everything” if they needed help. “He was always looking to make people be happy with what they had in life and he was always looking for the positive things in life,” Rayl said. “He was a simple guy and didn’t have a lot of extravagant or worldly things, just always tried to keep things simple.” Witnesses who saw Monday’s crash said the plane made a slight turn at 500 feet near Aviation Boulevard, losing altitude and then taking a nosedive into the earth, according to Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt. The cause of the crash is unknown and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will investigate the crash, which Whitt said could take months. A Federal Aviation Administration inspector Tuesday morning surveyed the aircraft, the area around it and anything that could point to a cause, according to Whitt. The inspector would not comment to the media. The plane was taken Tuesday morning from the crash site to a salvage yard in Sacramento, where Gregor said both agencies will “thoroughly examine it in the coming weeks.” Whitt said the agencies will inspect the plane to see if there’s “anything that may point to a cause,” including the fuel tank and plane parts. "It’s a real tragedy that took the lives of two people, and hopefully they can find out what happened and prevent it from happening again," Whitt said. Neither the police department nor the fire department would speculate what caused the crash. Whitt said there are 268 aircraft based out of the Lincoln Regional Airport, and the runway is 6000 feet long. Lincoln Regional Airport manager Dave Daly said Monday’s accident was the first airport accident fatality in 30 years, which killed two people. Daly said the airport usually has “a couple incidents a year” that are non-injury related, and involve the pilot leaving their landing gear up prior to landing.