HURRICANE — Authorities released the names Saturday of a Grassy Meadows Sky Ranch married couple who died in an airplane crash near Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane Thursday afternoon.
Shawn Arthur Ackerman, 56, and Bonnie Bergstrom Ackerman, 49, both of Hurricane, were found dead after something went wrong during a flight in a 2011 two-seat, single-engine fixed-wing Van’s RV-7 aircraft, causing the airplane to crash in a remote area in Hurricane between Sullivan’s Knoll and Flora Tech Road.
The St. George Communications Center received reports that the couple’s airplane had crashed around 1:37 p.m. Thursday. It was reported that a plane was seen traveling very low before the crash, Hurricane Police Sgt. Brandon Buell said.
Kevin Prisbrey, of Ivins, said he was sitting on his friend’s porch, talking with his friend when he heard a plane making abnormal sounds that sounded like it was “sputtering.”
“We heard the airplane going ‘vroom, vroom’ like the engine’s cutting out,” Prisbrey said. “I was like ‘dude, that sounds like the airplane that crashed in Ivins years ago.’ We were just talking about it, then, all of a sudden, we hear this ‘boom’ and then silence.”
“It was really loud,” he said. “It was like right above us, it sounded like. But we couldn’t see – because the house is in the way – until we heard it stop and that big ole ‘boom.’ I think that’s when it hit or something.”
When Prisbrey and his friend ran around to the other side of the house to see what was going on, he said, they saw two pieces of metal debris falling from the sky and fluttering down by the point of the mountain.
“We were trying to figure out – it didn’t blow up or no smoke or anything – but we seen two pieces of metal flying out of the sky, like falling down,” Prisbrey said. “There wasn’t no flames or nothin’ that’s why I was like ‘what the heck’ but the engine stalled so I figured well it was probably shut off.”
The aircraft went down just a few miles from the Ackerman’s home in a rugged, undeveloped area between Sullivan’s Knoll and Flora Tech Road, and landed upside down on the cockpit.
While it has yet to be confirmed by officials, there were multiple reports that the wing of the aircraft had separated from the plane before it crashed.
Rulon Broadbent posted on the St. George News Facebook page that he saw the aircraft go down while he was working on the roof of a home in the Dixie Springs subdivision. Broadbent said he saw one of the wings come off as the plane was spiraling down.
The airplane was registered to and was being operated by Shawn Ackerman, who was a licensed commercial pilot.
In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration recognized Shawn Ackerman with inclusion in the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database. The database names Ackerman and other certified pilots who met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards established by the FAA.
The cause of the airplane crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Ackerman’s were the owners of Zion Fly Inn, a Southern Utah residential airpark at Sky Ranch. According to their website, the couple moved to Sky Ranch from Park City after falling in love with the area and its majestic scenery, mild weather and lack of snow to shovel.
The couple’s family issued the following statement:
Shawn and Bonnie Ackerman of Hurricane, Utah were involved in a fatal aircraft accident at approximately 1:30 PM on Thursday, December 10th. Further details are pending a complete investigation from the NTSB. In Lieu of flowers please make donations to the ‘Best Friends Animal Society’ in Kanab, Utah at www.bestfriends.org/donate. Thank you for respecting the family’s privacy in this time of mourning.
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