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Monday, December 20, 2010

Provo Tabernacle Fire Investigation Begins

Fire investigators don't expect to have a cause on the Provo Tabernacle fire for several days, or possibly even weeks. That's because it will probably be a few days until they can safely go inside. Investigators must wait until the building is more stabilized.
Monday at the Tabernacle, a contractor hired by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began removing fall hazards from the top exterior of the building.

Investigators could be sifting through the ashen remains of the Provo Tabernacle for the cause of last week's fire as early as Tuesday morning.

A construction crew hired by the LDS Church spent Monday tearing down some remnants and removing debris from the fire-ravaged building to make it safer for investigators to search the rubble. Demolition included the remainder of the gabled end of the roof on the west side.

Investigators spent the day studying old construction and remodeling plans for the more than 100-year-old tabernacle. They're familiarizing themselves with the layout so they have an idea of where to start once they get inside, said Provo Deputy Fire Chief Gary Jolley.

"What they're trying to do is develop a game plan," he said.
Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield also interviewed performers who were rehearsing the night before the blaze broke out to better understand the conditions inside the tabernacle and how things were set up, he said.

"We have a couple hundred performers, cast members and crew members that we've got to talk to and we're working on that today as well as other people that might have knowledge of the building and the systems being used that day," Schofield said.

Flames tore through the iconic building last Friday morning, gutting the interior. Debris piled 9 feet high covers the floor. The outside brick walls remain standing.

The site has been secured with a fence and is being guarded around the clock to ensure nothing inside is disturbed and to prevent anyone from trying to salvage anything from the building.

While many people are wondering if the Tabernacle will be rebuilt, the LDS Church has said it is too early to discuss what the future of the Tabernacle may be.

Officials have said once investigators get inside it could be days if not weeks before the cause is determined.

"This is going to be a long process because it's a large building," Jolley said.

In addition to the loss of the building, hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal property belonging to composer Lex de Azevedo and his Millennium Choral Society were destroyed in the fire.

Sunday night a benefit concert was held to raise money to cover those losses.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Provo Tabernacle Was "Part of Who We Are"

Nearly 2,000 people filed into the UCCU Center at Utah Valley University on Sunday night to mourn the loss of a historic building.

The memorial, and tribute, was held in honor of the Provo Tabernacle, which was ravaged by fire Friday. The cause of the blaze was still under investigation Sunday.

“This was more than a building; this building had a soul,” said Provo Mayor John Curtis in an hourlong service dedicated to the building. “It was a part of who we are.”

A performance of “Gloria” by the Millennium Choral Society was held after the service. The singing group had been scheduled to perform in the tabernacle. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert attended the service along with Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

“For us, this is an icon,” he added. “We need that building there.”

The completed Provo Tabernacle before the original tabernacle, whose spire is visible at the left of the picture, was demolished. Where that building stood, there is now a lush park cornering on Center Street and University Avenue. The stack of the heating plant is visible also on the left.

More Historical Tabernacle Photos

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fire Guts Provo Tabernacle

A massive fire destroyed the Provo Tabernacle, a historic building that has been a landmark in Provo for more than a century.
The fire was first reported about 2:45 a.m. Friday, December 17 and spread quickly through the 112-year-old structure. It took firefighters two days to extinguish the blaze. Provo Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield said investigators may not have an official cause of the fire until “well after” Christmas. Then the LDS Church will determine if the building can be restored.

Most of the brick facade on the lower portion of the building was still standing as of 9 a.m. on Saturday as well as the pinnacles of the building, but many fear the historic structure will be a complete loss.

"We're all really devastated," said Provo Mayor John R. Curtis. "Everyone in Provo has significant memories of concerts, plays, church meetings. It's an extremely vital part of my community. It's really a fabric of the community."

The tabernacle is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued a statement Friday morning calling the fire tragic. "The building not only serves our members and the community, but is a reminder of the pioneering spirit that built Utah. The damage appears severe and until we make a structural assessment we won't know whether this historic treasure will be able to be saved," the statement read.

No word yet on what caused the fire, but crews believe it may have started in the upper levels. No injuries are reported.

BYU crews were filming a concert inside the tabernacle Thursday night. One witness said she smelled something like a hot glue gun. "We just thought, 'OK maybe it's just TV crews and lights,'" she said.

Millions of dollars in electronic equipment used to produce and record the production also went up in flames.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roy residents hoping for pilot's return to health

Dec. 6, 2010

ROY -- There is much concern over the welfare of the pilot who was critically injured when he crashed into a Roy neighborhood Sunday evening. The woman whose house he crashed into is most concerned not for her home, but for his well-being.

Video Courtesy of

The pilot, 46-year-old Clayton Roop of West Haven, remains in critical but stable condition at the University of Utah Burn Center with burns over about 15 percent of his body.

Pat Newman is a longtime resident of the neighborhood where Roop crash landed Sunday night. As she huddled in the dark, after running from her burning home, her thoughts weren't about her half-burned house -- they were of the man who crashed his plane into it.

"When I saw that ball of flames, I didn't think anyone could have possibly survived it," Newman said.

Roop was on his way back from Lake Powell when something -- possibly the thick fog -- caused him to miss the runway in his Cessna 210, just as Newman and her husband were settling in for the evening.

"There was a flash, but I didn't get the flash, it didn't register with me until later. And then I heard an explosion," Newman recalled. "Our car was right outside the door and the explosion was so loud that I said to my husband, ‘Our car has exploded.'"

But when Newman opened her door she knew it wasn't their car, but a plane. She and her husband only had time to grab their car keys and drive away as their car began to catch fire.

"I said to my husband, ‘I think we don't have all our tires because it feels like I'm driving on the rims,'" she said. "And there was no tire, it had been -- plus the front of the car, they tell me, is kind of melted."

But Newman still has a smile. That's because while she, her husband, her neighbors and the pilot all could have been killed, none of them were.

"I am so thankful we are alive," Newman said. "I am so thankful that everyone got out."

The pilot's family is thankful for that as well. Roop's wife said in a statement she and her family are grateful no one else was injured in the accident.

Roop's best friend Richard Farver spoke with KSL Monday about how Clayton Roop is doing in the hospital.

"What the doctors told us last night is that he'll need some skin grafts and he'll probably be in there for a month," he said.

Farver said Roop was a perfectionist -- that he believes something must have been wrong with the plane, because Roop was an experienced pilot who never would have taken an unnecessary risk.

"I'm sure there's a reason. Clayton was very meticulous. He would not have done anything that wouldn't be right," Farver said. "Something went wrong with the plane, not with Clayton, I'm sure of that."

Second pilot attempted landing before Roy neighborhood crash

Dec. 6, 2010

Sunday night's plane crash into a Roy neighborhood came shortly after another aircraft tried unsuccessfully to land at Ogden-Hinckley Airport -- twice -- before diverting to Utah County.

ROY -- Sunday night's plane crash into a Roy neighborhood came shortly after another aircraft tried unsuccessfully to land at Ogden-Hinckley Airport -- twice -- before diverting to Utah County.

Contract commercial pilot Steve Lindquist was flying a 10-seat Cessna from Oakland to Ogden. While making his initial approach, he says the sky above the Ogden-Hinckley was clear, but that changed.

"There was just a very heavy layer of low-lying fog," he said.

Lindquist said the problem was poor visibility. He and his co-pilot decided that, even though they had the necessary training and high-tech equipment to make a landing into Ogden-Hinckley Airport, it wasn't worth the risk.

"We just had some bad weather, and fog just really changes quickly," said airport manager Ed Rich.

Just before Clayton Roop crashed a Cessna 210 in the neighborhood near 2000 West and 4300 South in Roy Sunday evening, a pair of other planes also tried to land but decided to try other airports.

Lindquist was the co-pilot of one of those planes, a Cessna Citation SII.

"We did not have visual contact with the airport, so we executed the missed approach procedure," he said.

That means because they couldn't see the runway, with visibility at three-quarters of a mile and 200 feet altitude, they turned off and tried again.

"It's heads-up flying," Lindquist said. "And it's precise, and it can wear on you after a couple of them."

After a second unsuccessful try, he and his co-pilot flew to a clear-skied Provo.

"As Clint Eastwood used to say, a man's got to know his limitations. Mine's two," Lindquist said.

Though he does not want to speculate on what happened on the plane that crashed, Lindquist says there are minimum visibility requirements for instrument landing procedures, and visibility had been going up and down.

"It was still above minimums when we started our first approach, but had gone down during the approach," he said.

Pilots who use Ogden-Hinckley Airport say it has a good reputation.

"Very well organized airport, very safety conscious as well," said helicopter pilot Landon Bennion.

Rich says considering the number of planes that fly there, the airport has a solid safety record compared with other airports over the last 20 years -- despite four crashes into a nearby neighborhood.

"I would say it's at least average and maybe above average," he said. "We have about 100,000 takeoffs and landings a year, so over that period we've had a couple million takeoffs and landings, so it's not too bad."

Several pilots say many if not most airports they use were once surrounded mostly by farmland, but sprawl, homes and business have moved in nearby. They say flying directly over development is just a modern reality.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Plane crashes into Roy neighborhood

Dec. 5, 2010

ROY -- A plane crashed into a Roy neighborhood Sunday night, critically injuring the pilot. No one was killed.

Authorities confirmed three homes in the area of 2000 West and 4300 South were on fire. Fire officials say those fires have now been contained.

The Cessna 220 began to struggle in the heavy fog and clipped a power line just before 6 p.m., Roy City Fire Chief Jon Ritchie said.

"It hit the power line so those things were kind of sparking at you, and parts of the plane were still on fire," said neighbor Jennifer Presiler.

Pilot pulled from plane
Neighbor Gary Cox helped pull the pilot from the plane. He says the pilot was confused and badly burned but was able to answer questions.

"Pretty banged up, burnt on his hands and face, but he was actually coherent and remembered what his name was and what he was doing," Cox said.

The pilot was able to confirm he was the only person in the plane at the time of the crash. He was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition.

Cox says there was "nothing left" of the plane, but that parts were scattered across the road.

Residents evacuated, power outages reported
The crash site is just southwest of the Ogden-Hinckley Airport. Fire crews were evacuating residents to North Park Elementary School at 2175 W. 4200 South. At least 50 people had checked in at the shelter.

Residents are reporting widespread power outages in the neighborhood. As of 8 p.m., Rocky Mountain Power reported 770 homes without power.

Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham said the neighborhood's residents were all accounted for Sunday night, and no one but the pilot was reported to be hurt.

Police are asking residents to stay away from the crash site, which has been congested with people and cars. Emergency crews are having a difficult time getting in and out of the area.

Fourth crash in the area in just 21 years
This is the fourth time a small plane has crashed in this area. On March 12, 1989, the pilot of a single-engine plane escaped with just minor injuries when his plane crashed in small field on the south side of 44th South at about 16th West.

Then in July of 1999, four people were killed when their single-engine plane plunged into the backyard of a home at 4311 S. 1900 West -- across the street from the airport runways.

Before hitting the ground, the plane clipped several tall trees, ripping off several large limbs and then flipped onto its top. It burst into flames upon impact.

In 2005, two men survived when their single-engine plane crashed into a home at 2133 W. 4300 South and burst into flames. No one was home at the time, but police evacuated nearly 100 people from about 30 homes in the neighborhood.

Both the pilot and co-pilot walked away from the plane. They were treated for serious injuries.

"I'm not happy about it at all," said Marné Bowden Sunday. "This is the third plane that's crashed in this exact same neighborhood. The one plane hit a house two houses away from where it crashed today."

Cause of the crash is still unknown.