Wife tracked her husband’s fatal flight

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Crashes

— A Florida businessman’s wife was using a flight tracking site to keep up with her husband and his three hunting buddies’ flight home from Uvalde when she noticed something had gone wrong.

Paul Mazak, 44, Malcolm Lavender, 57, Richard “Rick” Schippers, 59, and Shane Schippers, 37, were killed when a twin-turboprop Beechcraft King Air owned and piloted by Mazak went down in bad weather Monday.

Mazak and his passengers, who had been hunting on Mazak’s property near Uvalde, left Garner Municipal Airport at 11:01 a.m., bound for Leesburg, Fla., according to friends and flight records. Mazak’s plane left Uvalde nearly an hour behind schedule, after he delayed takeoff to wait for a cold front and severe thunderstorms to blow through.

“They waited a while for the weather,” said Chip King, an engineer based at the Uvalde airport. “The storms weren’t that terrible when they came through here. When he left it was a little break and it was clearing to the south.”

Less than 45 minutes later, Mazak’s plane vanished from FAA radar, shortly after he reported that turbulence was making it difficult to maintain an altitude of 25,000 feet. Controllers at FAA’s Houston Center had noticed Mazak’s plane was losing altitude.

At home in Florida, Mazak’s wife, Reba, called King after she noticed an oddity with her husband’s flight path.

“She was watching him fly and the airplane was coasting or stationary over Benavides,” said King, who had known Paul Mazak for about five years. “She noticed something wrong. She did not understand what was going on.”

Reba Mazak couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

The tracking site, Flightaware.com, shows Mazak’s path — a bright green line — dead-ending on screen in the face of a line of storms.

Officials said the plane plummeted to the ground shortly after 11:42 a.m., falling directly into a thick, brushy area on the Shamoun Ranch about four miles northwest of Benavides off State Highway 339.

It likely will be several days before investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board complete an investigation into the crash, said Cpl. Charlie Ramirez of Texas Department of Public Safety. Those investigators arrived shortly before noon Tuesday.

Mazak, Lavender and the Schipperses, who were father and son, had been in Uvalde for about a week, King said.

Donna Rausa, a cousin of Rick Schippers’ wife, said the deaths of the men are unimaginable. Rick Schippers was in marine construction, devoted to his family including Shane, who had a wife and children.

“He was the kind of a man whenever we had dinner together he would say a blessing,” said Rausa, who lives in New Jersey. “He was very religious, very spiritual. I would call him an anchor.”

Mazak had ranching and mining interests in Florida. Attempts to reach Mazak’s and Lavender’s family were unsuccessful.


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