Prominent Stern Family of Phoenix Killed in Home-Built Airplane Crash

Published:2:36 pm EDT, January 2, 2013| Updated:2:46 pm EDT, January 2, 2013|
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A prominent Arizona family, the Sterns, died in a plane crash near San Diego over the weekend.

William Stern Jr., 65, father and head of Stern Produce Co., a food supplier based in Phoenix, was killed while piloting their home-built airplane when it went down, reported by The Daily News.

His wife Jennifer, 53, was in the front passenger seat, and their 19-year-old daughter Katelyn was in the back passenger seat as the small, Lancair IV-P aircraft crashed into hilly terrain around 10:15 a.m. on Saturday morning.

stern produce truck

Son William Stern III was not aboard the plane and will take over his father's role as president of the 96-year-old Stern Produce Co.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating into the crash; a full report could take up to two years. It's unclear why the plane went down, but witnesses have given clues. San Diego County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Hale said the plane fell from the sky in some type of spin, according to ABC News in Phoenix. A hiker heard a loud boom before seeing the plane crash and tried unsuccessfully to hike to the scene.

Friends say Stern was an experienced pilot, and the family often flew to and from their vacation home in San Diego. The FAA reports that the rate of fatal accidents in Lancair aircrafts is considerably higher than that of personal use aircrafts as well as the fatal accident rate of all amateur-built aircrafts.
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