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Family members who died in plane crash had zest for life

HARRISBURG, Ore. (AP) — The three members of a California family killed in an Oregon plane crash are being described as fun-loving go-getters with a zest for life.

The crash on Friday killed John A. Zitting, 42; his wife, Karen Blackmore Zitting, 37; and their 17-year-old son, John “Brendan” Zitting. Also killed was the pilot, Mark Aletky, 67, of Acton, California.

Mark Zitting of Heber City, Utah, described his brother John as a man who lived life to the fullest, loved to travel and loved the ocean. He told the Los Angeles Daily News that the family members from Thousand Oaks, California, were good people and set great examples for others.

The crash occurred as the family was flying to Eugene, Oregon, so that Brendan, their only child, could tour the University of Oregon.

The plane crashed just before 11 a.m. Friday near an airport about 2 miles north of Harrisburg, Oregon, which is just north of Eugene, according to Linn County sheriff’s officials.

“We were definitely not expecting this because (John) lived life to the fullest,” said brother told the newspaper. “He had a yacht, and they spent a lot of time on the ocean when they could. They were all great examples and good people.”

The single engine six-seat 1984 Piper PA-46-310P was flying from Van Nuys, California, to Eugene, the sheriff’s office said. All four occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.

“Brendan was a great student, top of his class, on the swim team,” Mark Zitting said. “He was a very smart, fun young man to be around and know.”

The family moved from Utah to Southern California about seven years ago, and John Zitting started TruNorthe LLC, a Simi Valley-based construction management company, Mark Zitting said.

John Zitting was one of 12 siblings, his brother said.

Meanwhile, Aletky’s son Joseph told OregonLive that his father was a professional drummer in California before deciding at the age of 45 that he wanted to be a pilot. Mark Aletky was the father of three children, Joseph said.

He said his father had flown thousands of hours in many aircraft and received training specific to the Piper PA-46-310P that crashed.

“He was extraordinary in his ability,” Joseph Aletky said. “He’s not the type to panic.”

Witnesses reported seeing the plane flying low before turning and crashing into a grass field.

Federal authorities are investigating.


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