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2nd Henderson plane crash victim ID’d as California man, 59

The family of John McCarthy has identified the 59-year-old man as the second victim of last week’s fatal plane crash in Henderson.

McCarthy of San Diego died in the crash along with 48-year-old Lorenzo Harris, McCarthy’s stepdaughter, Katie Seelie, told the Review-Journal on Saturday night. McCarthy had worked as the director of maintenance at the California Flight Academy in El Cajon, California, for about six months when a plane owned by the academy crashed near Henderson Executive Airport on Sept. 7.

The plane, a single-engine Beechcraft Sierra, crashed with four people on-board after experiencing a mechanical issue shortly after takeoff. The plane had turned around to land again when it crashed in a desert area and caught fire.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

As of Friday, McCarthy had not been identified by the Clark County coroner’s office, which Seelie said was because his body was so badly burnt in the crash.

“We’re still in the phase where it doesn’t always feel real, and we’re just kind of waiting for him to walk in the door,” the 27-year-old said Saturday night.

Harris and the other two men in the crash — Thomas William Craig VIII and Hugo Diego Betancourt Vizuet — were registered pilots, according to FAA records. According to Craig and Vizuet’s respective LinkedIn pages, both men also worked at the California Flight Academy.

Seelie said her stepfather was flying home from Las Vegas after a work trip. She said McCarthy was in the valley to work on a separate plane the flight academy owns that needed maintenance.

The last time they spoke, McCarthy was eating dinner with Seelie’s family and talking about his upcoming work trip. Seelie said McCarthy had loved doing maintenance work on airplanes for the past 2o years, although he was aware of the dangers associated with smaller planes.

“We’ve talked about a lot of crashes with people he’s known, unfortunately,” Seelie said. “So that was always kind of a thought in our heads of how dangerous they really can be.”

Seelie said McCarthy married her mother when she was just 4 years old, and has been the main father figure in her life ever since. He and her mother, Linda McCarthy, were planning for John McCarthy’s 60th birthday in October.

He also had two grandchildren on the way — both Seelie and her sister-in-law are pregnant, she said.

Seelie said one of her happiest memories with McCarthy was in February, when he walked her down the aisle at her wedding.

He planned for the wedding for months, even mentioning it to his new employer as he was applying for the job.

“He told them when he went into the interview that he couldn’t start work until after my wedding, because he was walking his daughter down the aisle,” Seelie said.

She described her stepfather as a fun-loving man who loved to tell “dad jokes,” and was passionate about golf, fishing and camping. He was “best friends” with her 7-year-old son, and the two often played with nerf guns and water guns together.

“He was always saying the same jokes over and over, no matter how annoying they got,” Seelie said with a laugh, later adding that McCarthy “just loved to have fun.”

Seelie started a GoFundMe for her stepfather on Saturday to raise money for her mother, Linda McCarthy, who is planning to travel from California to Las Vegas to retrieve John McCarthy’s body, as well as to pay for memorial services in California and Massachusetts, where John McCarthy grew up.

Seelie said she also set up the fundraiser because the flight academy McCarthy worked for didn’t have life insurance.

She said that after the crash, she and her mom were able to speak to the good Samaritan who helped pull people from the plane, receiving minor smoke inhalation injuries himself.

“He was pretty amazing; he was saying how he really didn’t want credit,” Seelie said. “He was really apologetic that John died, and thinking he could have done more.”

Seelie said nothing then man could have done would have changed the outcome of the crash.

“He was always laughing and smiling and bringing people together,” Seelie said. “A lot of times I feel like when people die, people start saying that, but I really feel like he was a light wherever he went.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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