A single-plane crash near Winslow last month claimed the lives of two locals, including Scottsdale resident and former race car driver Bill Whittington.
According to the FAA, a twin-engine Swearingen SA226-T crashed 10 miles north of Winslow in Navajo County on April 23 with two people on board.
The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office later identified the deceased as 71-year-old Bill Whittington and 48-year-old Stephen Kirkby of Cave Creek. The plane was registered to Global Air LLC of Scottsdale.
The Sheriff’s Office said it received multiple calls about a plane crash at around 3:20 p.m. on April 23 near a remote stretch of State Route 87 northeast of Winslow.
Whittington and Kirkby’s bodies were found near the plane when first responders arrived on scene.
Whittington’s friend Randy Lanier told Autoweek that Whittington was giving a plane ride to a friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and had lost his pilot’s license.
“So Bill wanted to give him an experience of flying again,” Lanier told Autoweek. “This is the kind of man Bill is. Bill was more than a teammate at the track. He is my brother. He was a damn good man. A man who loved Christ and his family.”
According to flight tracking website FlightAware, the plane took off from Scottsdale Airport at 2:12 p.m.
The plane then appeared to circle around the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport several times. It then veered east and performed two figure-eight patterns before the crash.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the incident and no further details are known about what caused the plane crash.
Earlier in his life, Whittington was an accomplished race car driver, winning the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside brother Don and German driver Klaus Ludwig, according to Autoweek.
Bill, Don and Dale Whittington were also the only trio of brothers to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
In 1986, Bill Whittington was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he and Don pled guilty to conspiring to smuggle marijuana into the U.S. from Colombia, according to the New York Times.
The Whittingtons and Lanier were part of a group of drivers in the International Motor Sports Association convicted of participating in the drug smuggling ring, the Times reported.