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Over $63K raised for pilot injured in deadly Henderson plane crash

Updated September 10, 2019 - 5:05 pm

A fundraiser for a pilot who survived a deadly plane crash this weekend in Henderson raised more than $63,000 in fewer than 24 hours.

The GoFundMe campaign, which indicates that it was created Monday evening by family members, states that pilot Thomas William Craig VIII was saved by a good Samaritan after the crash but suffered serious burns to most of his body.

Two people died and three others, including Craig and the good Samaritan who helped him, were injured.

“A fire occurred and as it blazed, a Good Samaritan Angel helped an individual stumbling from the wreckage on fire. That person was Thomas, whom we all love so deeply,” the GoFundMe page states.

Craig became a certified commercial pilot in February, Federal Aviation Administration records show. In May, he became a certified flight instructor, and in June he began working at the California Flight Academy in El Cajon, according to his LinkedIn page.

“Over the last year, I have completely changed the course of my life and dedicated it to making my dream of becoming a commercial pilot reality,” Craig wrote on his LinkedIn page. “I have given it everything I have to gain my commercial ratings and become the pilot I am today.”

Craig graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2010, according to his LinkedIn page.

One of the deceased passengers, 48-year-old Lorenzo Harris of California, was identified Tuesday. He died of thermal and blunt force injuries, according to the Clark County coroner’s office. The other passenger who died and the other injured people have not been identified.

FAA records show that Harris became a certified commercial pilot in 2014.

When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, the family of the second injured person — Hugo Diego Betancourt Vizuet — referred questions to lawyer Eric Palacio.

In an email, Palacios said the family would like privacy and that they are “praying for his speedy recovery.”

“There’s not much to say at this time. Hugo is obviously in a very delicate condition,” Palacios said.

On his LinkedIn page, Betancourt Vizuet wrote that “traveling, airports and airplanes are part of the lifestyle I want to live.” He listed the El Cajon-based California Flight Academy, LLC, on the website as part of his “experience.”

FAA records show Betancourt Vizuet became a private pilot in April.

On Saturday, a single-engine Beechcraft Sierra plane with four people on board had a mechanical issue after takeoff from the Henderson Executive Airport and turned around in an attempt to land. The plane then crashed and caught fire in a desert area just south of the airport.

Archived audio of radio traffic between the plane and the airport’s control tower indicated the plane requested to turn around and re-land as a door was open mid-flight, according to the air traffic website LiveATC.net.

The Beechcraft Sierra, which identified itself with the same identification number provided to the Review-Journal by the FAA on Saturday, was cleared for takeoff about 7:41 p.m.

About two minutes later, the person on the plane’s radio said “we just had a door open on us… is there anyway we can come back to land?” There was no radio audio on the website from the crash itself.

It remained unclear Tuesday what caused the crash.

According to the GoFundMe page, Craig was born in Hawaii and lived in San Diego, where the plane was returning before it crashed. The plane was registered to the same address of the California Flight Academy, where Craig worked, FAA records show.

A person who answered the phone Tuesday at the academy hung up after a reporter identified himself.

Craig has no relatives in Las Vegas, according to the GoFundMe page, and his friends and family have traveled across the country to visit him.

“His loved ones gathered in the burn unit with hearts in hand,” the fundraiser states. “Thomas will have to endure multiple surgeries, multiple skin grafts, and many months, possibly years of rehab.”

Craig suffered second- and third-degree burns across almost 75 percent of his body, according to the GoFundMe page.

As of Tuesday morning, 397 people had donated over $41,000 of the fundraiser’s $100,000 goal. Within 23 hours of the campaign’s creation, 531 people had donated more than $63,000.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter. Staff writer Rachel Crosby and Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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