Utah State University student killed in plane crash was example of leadership, friend says

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-19 00:49:40-04

CACHE COUNTY, Utah -- A Utah State University student was killed, Monday afternoon, when he crashed his plane in a remote area of Cache County.

Frank De Leon, 21, was majoring in aviation technology and this flight was part of the USU Professional Pilot Program.

The FAA is still investigating the cause of the crash.

De Leon was a fully licensed private pilot, considered one of the sharpest students in his class. So friends want to know what went wrong.

"He's passionate about planes, he wanted to study how to fix them, and he also wanted to fly them," said friend Ivan Quezada. "He has pictures of his flights all over the internet so I was surprised, I was shocked, I didn't expect it. I didn't want to believe it."

Friends say if you never met Frank you missed out.

"It was devastating because he was such a light to those on our campus and he was such an example of a great leader," said Ashley Waddoups, USU Student Body President.

Frank was from the Dominican Republic and was going to be the newest president of the USU International Student Council.

"It was almost a little bit intimidating because he was so passionate and 'let's get down to business, how can we help these individuals that I represent' and I think that's what made him incredible," Waddoups said.

This marks the first time someone has died while flying in the USU Professional Pilot Program, which has been around since 1939.

"It's very sobering but those are the consequences when you have a problem," said pilot Craig Wallin.

Wallin’s house is just a few hundred yards from where the single-engine plane went down.

"It sounded kind of like a dump truck dumping its load very quick," Wallin said.

While the FAA continues to investigate, Wallin has his theories as to what caused the crash.

"There were really some strong winds through here this afternoon and hit a downdraft and probably couldn't pull out of it," he said. "It's pretty disheartening to look out your back window and see a fatality in the area."

De Leon's family is in the process of flying to Utah from the Dominican Republic. Friends are planning on holding a campus vigil for him later this week.