Children killed in plane crash loved nature and art, mom says

Logan and Mackenzie play at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 2016.
Logan and Mackenzie play at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 2016. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Logan Echevarria was a kindhearted, thoughtful and inquisitive boy who enjoyed nature and the outdoors. His little sister Mackenzie was an energetic girl who charged headlong into art and music.

“She just had this passion for life, so bubbly. She loved to sing and dance. She always wanted to be around people,” said the children’s mother, Liz Echevarria of Bellingham. “Logan, he was … everybody could tell that he was a compassionate kid from the time he was really little. Everyone felt like he touched their heart.”

Logan, 9, and Mackenzie, 5, died Dec. 29 in the crash of a private plane in a remote area near Hood Canal northwest of Seattle. Also killed were the children’s grandmother, Carla Parke, 61 – who was Liz’s mother – and Parke’s fiancé, pilot Jon Bernhoft, 63, both of Sequim. No cause has been determined for the crash, which is under investigation.

Logan had a highly developed sense of empathy for such a youngster, Echevarria said. He was most at home outside, studying tadpoles, contemplating the grains of sand on a beach, or simply curled up with book on fish or butterflies.

It was just the worst nightmare. I don’t think anyone can picture anything worse.

Liz Echevarria, the children’s mother

“He could tell if I was upset or sad, and would come and hug me and ask what was wrong. He loved being outside in nature. He loved science and learning how things work,” Echevarria said.

Logan was thinking of becoming a veterinarian or zoologist.

Mackenzie – who had a bold and generous personality – was too young to consider the future, still wrapped in princess or ballerina fantasies.

“She, every day, was bringing home art. She drew a lot of people; she was always drawing family and friends,” Liz said.

Logan also loved books. Mackenzie, who couldn’t yet read, loved listening to stories – especially if Logan was reading.

(Mackenzie) just had this passion for life.

Liz Echevarria

“He was always reading,” Echevarria said. “His favorite ones were animal books. He wouldn’t read fiction. He loved to talk about what he had learned.

“Mackenzie loved to be read to,” she said. “Logan, he would even read books to her. She would sit the whole time and listen.”

Echevarria, who works at Family Care Network, and her husband, Sean, who works for Haggen in its corporate office, and the family had a close relationship with her mother, who lived locally until Parke moved to Sequim last year. The children missed their grandmother terribly over the past several months, Liz said.

“We just had this really great holiday season and got to spend so much time together,” Liz Echevarria said. “The kids were going to spend the last week of vacation with grandma.”

Echevarria said the flight was part of a post-holiday visit with the children’s grandmother, one they’d all been anticipating for some time.

Everyone felt like (Logan) touched their heart.

Liz Echevarria

“Over the past year, it’s been hard for them, not seeing her. This was their last opportunity to see her for a while,” Echevarria said.

She added that she didn’t speak with her children on the day they died because Parke and Bernhoft planned to fly from Sequim to Seattle to take the children to the Seattle Aquarium. The single-engine, four-seat Cessna 180 left Boeing Field in Seattle for Port Angeles just after 6 p.m. last Thursday and lost contact with air traffic control about 45 minutes later. Searchers found the wreckage in a heavily wooded ravine in Jefferson County on Friday morning.

Echevarria said she was unaware of what happened until dinnertime Friday, when a friend called after watching a TV news report.

“He said, ‘Please tell me the kids weren’t with their grandmother.’ I had no idea what they were talking about.” A quick search online showed photos of the wreckage. Echevarria – to her horror – recognized the aircraft’s tail number.

“It was just the worst nightmare. I don’t think anyone can picture anything worse,” she said.

If there is any comfort in the days that followed the horrific news, it’s the kindness and generosity the Echevarrias have found from family, friends and their community. A GoFundMe effort to pay for funeral and other expenses had raised $23,940 of a $30,000 goal in just three days.

“It’s been so overwhelming,” Liz Echevarria said. “We are so thankful for the support. It does mean a lot.”

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

To help

A family friend has started a Go Fund Me page online to help with funeral expenses and to allow the parents to take time from work to grieve. Go to gofundme.com and search “Logan & Mackenzie Echevarria.”