(St. George, UT)- The four men killed Saturday in an airplane accident near the St. George Municipal Airport have been identified.
They are Colby Chester Hafen, 28 of Santa Clara, Tanner James Holt, 23 of Washington City, Christopher Jordan Chapman, 20 of Santa Clara and Alexander James Metzger, 22 of St. George. All are believed to have been killed upon impact.
The men were in a single-engine Cessna 172 at the time of the crash, which was discovered around 6:00AM about 300 feet south of the airport's runway. It is believed that the crash occurred around 1:30AM. There were no eyewitnesses to the crash, and no airport personnel on duty at that time.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation and publish a preliminary report at NTSB Accident Investigations, within a few weeks. However, it typically takes NTSB months to determine a probable cause for an accident. Investigators Sunday were moving the wreckage to a hangar at the airport so it could be further analyzed over the coming weeks.
In a statement from the Hafen family about Colby, they described him as a "wonderful son, brother and uncle" who adored his nieces and nephews.
"He loved to travel and explore other countries," they wrote. "He also loved hunting, fishing, boating and anything in the outdoors."
They said he served an LDS mission to Oregon and was working in the insurance business with his father. An avid sports fan, Hafen also loved being with people.
"He could always bring a smile to anyone's sad day and had the most loving and giving heart," his family wrote. "He could light up the room with his contagious smile and infectious personality."
There was no information released concerning who was flying the plane.
Assistant City Manager Marc Mortensen said, "The airport is not staffed at that time of night. We operate through an automated system as far as clearing the air space, so there is no one that approves takeoffs or approaches."
"Even if we could have discovered this within minutes, it's apparent that there were no survivors and everyone died on impact," Mortsensen said. "Whether you discover it two minutes later or four or five hours later, I think it's insignificant in this case."
The crash, the first at the airport, which opened about a year and a half ago.
Mortsensen said that because crash occurred so far from the runway, it did not interrupt airport operations Saturday and all private and commercial flights proceeded as scheduled.