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Dallas Diocese, community mourn 10 people killed in plane crash

This article was updated July 3.

DALLAS — Two Dallas Catholic school students, their mother and stepfather who were among 10 people killed in the crash of a private plane north of Dallas June 30 were described as giving people who had a charisma that would easily draw others to them.

Alice Maritato, 15, a rising sophomore at John Paul II High School in Plano, and Dylan Maritato, 13, who was entering the eighth grade at All Saints Catholic School, along with their mother and stepfather, Ornella and Brian Ellard, were identified July 1 as victims of the fatal crash.

They were among the eight passengers and two crew members who died when the plane they were on crashed shortly after takeoff from the Addison Municipal Airport, north of Dallas, on its way to St. Petersburg, Florida.

"Anybody you talk to has this deep feeling for the family that has love and they have this special charisma that draws people to them," Terry Hanlon, whose son Jack was Dylan's best friend, told reporters July 3 at All Saint Catholic Church in Dallas, where the family worshipped.

Hanlon was among several hundred people who gathered at the church July 3 for a private rosary and memorial Mass. He said the children's father, Michele Maritato, is devastated and is requesting privacy while he mourns the loss of his children and other family members.

Hanlon said the children's parents, despite being divorced, were close.

"They acted like a five-member family," he said. "Often when parents are separated, there are rough edges. It wasn't that way with this family. The kids and father were very Italian — affectionate, loving."

"Michele, the father, along with the stepfather and mother, they were wonderful people, a community. They were givers, not takers," Hanlon said. "If they even thought that you needed help with something, not just financial, maybe needed some work, they were the first ones to step up to the plate. They did not ask for recognition for what they did. They were understated, low-profile. Their kids were the same."

In a statement released by the Diocese of Dallas July 1, Bishop Edward J. Burns expressed his sadness and called for prayers for those affected by the tragedy.

"We mourn the loss of 10 people in the recent airplane crash at Addison Airport. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family members of those tragically killed," the statement read. "We commend the deceased into the arms of God's love and mercy.

"At the same time, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas grieves with the communities of All Saints Catholic School in Dallas and John Paul II High School in Plano as we mourn the deaths of passengers Dylan and Alice Maritato, and their mother and stepfather, Ornella and Brian Ellard," the bishop said in the statement. "As a community, we are saddened at the tragic loss of all who perished in the crash and offer special prayers for their families. Please join me in praying God will bring strength, grace, and peace to their family members and all those who loved them."

Witnesses reported that the plane struggled to gain altitude after takeoff. It crashed into an empty hangar and exploded.

David Snell, who was getting ready to fly from Addison with a friend that morning, told Dallas television station KDFW that the plane didn't sound right on takeoff.

"It looked like it was clearly reduced power. I didn't know if it was on purpose or not, but then, when the plane started to veer to the left, and you could tell it couldn't climb," Snell said. "My friend and I looked at each other and we're like, 'Oh my God. They're going to crash.'"

Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference July 2 that the Beechcraft Super King Air 350 was not equipped with a flight data recorder, but that a voice recorder had been located and its contents downloaded at a lab in Washington. He said that the flight crew discussed a left engine problem just before the plane crashed.

According to The Associated Press, Landsberg said the plane was cleared for takeoff about a minute before the recording ended, adding that crew comments "consistent with confusion" were followed by comments regarding a problem with the left engine.

All eight passengers were members of Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas, according to an email the club sent to its members.

NTSB officials said a preliminary report on the crash should be ready in about two weeks. A full crash analysis could take up to 18 months.

At the memorial Mass on July 3, parishioners, friends, and students somberly walked in and out of the church, some holding hands while others hugged each other.

Hanlon, the family friend, said that his son, Jack, is crushed, like others in the All Saints community, because the family was beloved.

"Everybody would get choked up once they start talking about the family because you can't pick anything about them that is negative," he said.

The Texas Catholic is the newspaper of the Diocese of Dallas.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019