‘Sweet and beautiful’ Thousand Oaks family killed in plane crash lived life fully, relative says

The brother of a man killed Friday in a small plane crash in Oregon along with his wife and their teenaged son recalled the Thousand Oaks family Sunday as fun-loving go-getters with a zest for life and pursuing their dreams.

John A. Zitting, 42, his wife, Karen Blackmore Zitting, 37, and their 17-year-old son, John “Brendan” Zitting, died in the tragic crash just before 11 a.m. Friday in a field near an airport about 2 miles north of Harrisburg, Oregon, according to Linn County sheriff’s officials.

“We were definitely not expecting this because (John Zitting) lived life to the fullest, he loved to travel and see new places, loved the ocean,” said brother Mark Zitting, 34, of Heber City, Utah, by phone. “He had a yacht and they spent a lot of time on the ocean when they could. They were all great examples and good people. They were definitely way too young to go.”

Also killed was Mark Gregory Aletky, 67, of Acton, a certified pilot hired by the Zitting family to fly them from Van Nuys to Eugene, Oregon, in a single-engine, six-seat 1984 Piper PA-46-310P, sheriff’s officials said. All four occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. Weather conditions at the scene were described as “brutal” by a witness who called 911 to report the crash, according to an audio recording of the call. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are assisting Linn County sheriff’s deputies and the Harrisburg Fire Department in the investigation, according to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

Witnesses described seeing the plane flying north at a low altitude approaching the Eugene Airport when it “suddenly turned and crashed into a grass field just west of Peoria Road” about 2 miles north of Harrisburg, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.

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