Thanksgiving Eve Crash Claims Six

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The pilot of a Turbo Commander that hit a cliff near Phoenix Thursday was an acknowledged expert on the type and familiar with the area. Shawn Perry, his three children Morgan, 9, Logan, 8 and Luke, 6, and Perry's colleagues at Ponderosa Aviation, Russell Hardy, 31 and Joseph Hardwick, 22, died when their AC690 aircraft hit a cliff about 400 feet below a ridge in the Superstition Mountains Wednesday evening. Local media report that Perry picked up the children in Mesa from his ex-wife and was taking them to his home in Safford, in the southeastern part of the state, for Thanksgiving. The aircraft exploded on impact and started a brush fire.

Perry and Hardy were business partners in Ponderosa Aviation and Hardwick was an employee. Ponderosa has more than 20 piston and turbine versions of the Twin Commander and uses them mainly under contract as spotting and air tanker guide aircraft for wildfire fighting. Perry was chief of operations, Hardy was a pilot and Hardwick was a mechanic.