August 25, 2008
Bountiful Man Lives Through Plane Crash
By Aaron Falk Deseret News and Juan Carlos Llorca Associated Press
A Bountiful man survived a plane crash that killed 10 people, including two Utahns, in eastern Guatemala on Sunday.
Dan Liljenquist survived the crash and suffered only minor injuries, including a fractured leg, his wife said.
"It's just amazing that he's alive and that his injuries are so minimal," Brooke Liljenquist said from their Bountiful home. "We feel extremely blessed."
Liljenquist was leading a group of humanitarian workers from his company, Focus Services. Two other Utahns were among that group and both died in the crash, Brooke Liljenquist said.
"It's very hard," she said. "It's a very close-knit company. It's like a family and this is really tragic and devastating for everyone."
The pilot called in engine trouble about 45 minutes after takeoff and tried to make an emergency landing, Guatemalan Civil Aviation director Jose Carlos said.
Eight passengers were killed, along with the Guatemalan pilot and co-pilot, Carlos said.
He said five of the passengers killed were Americans, but the nationalities of the other three had not been determined.
Four other Americans on board were injured and were being airlifted to a hospital in the capital. Carlos did not know the hometowns of the Americans.
Sarah Jensen, a 19-year-old from Wisconsin who survived the crash with minor cuts and bruises, said she and her family were headed to a village in El Estor to build homes for CHOICE Humanitarian, a group based in West Jordan, Utah.
Her brother and father were killed in the crash, and her mother had serious burns and contusions. The family is from Amery, Wis., Jensen told The Associated Press in a brief interview at the hospital.
The group did not return calls Sunday afternoon.
Javier and Walfred Rabanales, of Guatemala, were also killed in the crash, family members said. The couple acted as guides for CHOICE Humanitarian, said Javier's sister, Claudia Rabanales.
"Neither one could live without the other," she said from her home in California on Sunday. "They were inseparable, a truly amazing couple."
Javier Rabanales was a former bishop and stake president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Guatemala, his sister said.
Aero Ruta Maya, the airline operating the plane, said only 12 people were on the plane, including the pilots, a discrepancy that could not immediately be resolved.
The Guatemalan army provided a list of passengers, but the names appeared to be garbled. The U.S. Embassy did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
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