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Dallas Diocese, Community Mourn 10 People Who Died in Fiery Plane Crash

(Photo: Pixabay.)

DALLAS (Catholic News Service) — Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns, the Dallas Diocese and the entire community are mourning the loss of 10 people in a fiery plane crash that occurred the morning of June 30 at an area municipal airport.

The Texas Catholic diocesan newspaper reported July 1 that four members of a family with ties to a pair of Catholic school communities in the diocese were among those who died when a small, twin-engine plane crashed into a hangar during takeoff at Addison Municipal Airport, which is about nine miles north of downtown Dallas.

Alice Maritato, 15, a rising sophomore at John Paul II High School in Plano, and Dylan Maritato, 13, who was entering the eighth grade at All Saints Catholic School, along with their mother and stepfather, Ornella and Brian Ellard, were identified July 1 as victims of the fatal crash, which federal officials say resulted in the deaths of two crew members and eight passengers.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family members of those tragically killed,” Bishop Burns said in a statement on the diocese’s website. “We commend the deceased into the arms of God’s love and mercy.”

He said the diocese “grieves with the communities of All Saints Catholic School in Dallas and John Paul II High School in Plano” in mourning the deaths of Maritato siblings and their mother and stepfather.

“As a community, we are saddened at the tragic loss of all who perished in the crash and offer special prayers for their families,” Bishop Burns added. “Please join me in praying God will bring strength, grace, and peace to their family members and all those who loved them.”

A private memorial Mass for the family will be celebrated July 3 at All Saints Catholic Church.

The Associated Press reported National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg as saying the plane crashed at 9:11 a.m. (local time) June 30 at the airport. Landsberg said the plane was headed to St. Petersburg, Florida.

The cause of the crash remained unknown.

Witnesses who saw the small plane crash say it struggled on takeoff and appeared to lose power.

David Snell, who was getting ready to fly from Addison with a friend that morning, told KDFW-TV that the plane didn’t sound right on takeoff.

He said: “It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn’t know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left, and you could tell it couldn’t climb. My friend and I looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Oh my God. They’re going to crash.'”

Other victims who have been identified are Steve Thelen, 58, and his wife, Gina, as well as Matthew Palmer, 28, who was one of the crew members.

During a news briefing July 1, Landsberg said that the plane was not equipped with a flight data recorder, but a voice recorder had been located and its contents were being downloaded at a lab in Washington. The voice recorder should contain communications between the crew and air traffic control as well as conversations in the cockpit. Landsberg said investigators may also be able to pick up background noises.

NTSB officials said a preliminary report on the crash may be ready in about two weeks. A full crash analysis could take up to 18 months.

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