A Duvall man who died Monday night when his private plane crashed in the Chuckanut Mountains south of Bellingham was described as kind and generous – a passionate pilot and “gentleman farmer” who loved showing his animals to children.
Don Stanwyck, 61, was killed about 8 p.m. Monday when his single-engine Mooney M20K slammed into the mountainside at the upper end of Cleator Road, near the Fragrance Lake trailhead.
From the location of the wreckage and information about Stanwyck’s flight path, it appears that his plane dipped below a ridge, shearing off its wings and plummeting into thick forest, officials said.
Winds at the time were calm and skies were clear with visibility of 10 miles, according to National Weather Service records.
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Cause of the crash remained undetermined pending an investigation, which could take a year to two years, said an official with the National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB officials declined comment until the investigation is complete.
“Salt of the Earth,” said friend and former Microsoft co-worker Bob Marsh of Arizona. “He’s just a good, good person. A giving soul.”
Marsh said he and Stanwyck – a software engineer – worked in “software standards,” part of Microsoft’s legal department.
He recalled how Stanwyck often left fresh eggs from his Carnation farm in a refrigerator at the Redmond office, selling them on a honor system. He invited co-workers and their families to visit Jo’s Fleece Fields, which had alpacas, llamas, goats, chickens, sheep and peacocks.
“He’d ride them around on the tractor and they’d have a good time,” Marsh said. “It’s so sad to lose a person who added so much richness to the world.”
Stanwyck and his wife Jody were devoted Christians and hosted high school exchange students at their home. They participated in agriculture-oriented events such as the SnoValley Tilth farm tour. Stanwyck volunteered with Angel Flight West, flying for free people who lacked money to travel to medical treatments.
He flew 41 missions for Angel Flight from 2000 to 2006, and remained an active member, said Cheri Cimmarrusti, associate executive director.
Among his passengers were a Wenatchee child who wanted to go to diabetes camp in Spokane; an Okanogan boy with cysts on his brain who needed a procedure in Seattle; and a breast cancer patient in Oregon who was seeking treatment in Seattle.
“He did all these things at his own expense,” Cimmarrusti said.
Stanwyck’s plane vanished about 7:50 p.m. Monday, prompting an air and sea search before scattered wreckage was located by a helicopter crew at 9:15 p.m., said Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks.
Firefighters sent to the scene found Stanwyck’s body near the fuselage. He was the only person aboard.
Officials said Stanwyck was flying from Paine Field in Snohomish County, bound to Bellingham for maintenance.
Friends said they weren’t familiar with his aircraft and didn’t know what maintenance the aircraft needed.
Stanwyck radioed Bellingham Tower just before 8 p.m., “advising that the plane was going down. Radio contact was lost and the exact location was unknown,” Parks said.
“Further reports acquired from the Victoria Tower (in British Columbia) indicate the aircraft was flying at an elevation of 2,000 feet and was descending at a rate of 200 feet per minute,” Parks said. “This last elevation information was acquired as the aircraft was just to the south of Chuckanut Mountain which has an elevation of 2,080 feet.”