Dr. Mark Lundell spent hours upon hours in the clouds with his children, passing on to them his love for aviation.
On Saturday, the Paradise Valley surgeon watched as the single-engine, two-seater his son piloted stalled and crashed during takeoff and landing practice at Casa Grande Municipal Airport.
Lundell knew his son, Jacob Lundell, 21, died from the impact, so he pulled him from the wreckage and took him home so the family could say their goodbyes, said Lt. Steve Cantrell, of the Casa Grande Police Department.
"When you just watched your son die in a plane crash, you don’t always think clearly," Cantrell said.
Cantrell said that even though removing the body may make any investigation more difficult, police won’t seek charges against Mark Lundell.
"The family has suffered enough as it is," Cantrell said.
When police arrived, no one was in the cockpit, but investigators were able to trace the tail number to the Lundell home in Paradise Valley.
Casa Grande police called Paradise Valley police, who were at the home as Mark Lundell arrived with the body, Cantrell said.
Jacob Lundell had returned two weeks ago from a two-year mission in the Philippines for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said family friend Bob Walsmann.
He planned to accept a placement at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., which he had deferred while he was on the mission, he said.
"If you were going to describe an all-American young man right in the prime of his life, it would have to be any of the Lundell kids," said family friend Terry Emig, a Casa Grande pilot who, along with Mark Lundell, is a member in the Scottsdale chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
For the Lundells, flying is a family affair and way of providing community service.
Mark Lundell’s collection includes a vintage AT-11, a twinengine aircraft built by Beechcraft and used for training World War II navigators and bombardiers, which has enough seats to carry the family of four boys and two girls, Emig said.
"It was always Mark and Deb and a whole passel of kids riding around in this beautifully restored twin Beech," Emig said.
They use the plane for the Young Eagles, a program in which pilots volunteer to take children who have never flown before for flights.
Mark Lundell also takes World War II veterans for flights every Veterans Day in vintage planes.
Jacob Lundell graduated in 2003 from Saguaro High School, where he played football and lacrosse, Walsmann said.
Lundell earned the rank of Eagle Scout with Scottsdale Boy Scout Troop 418, said Walsmann, who served as Scoutmaster while Lundell was in the troop.
He was an avid outdoorsman, who loved to camp, hike, canoe and climb mountains, both with the Scouts and his family, Walsmann said. "He always was ready to go," he said.
One of Lundell’s most defining moment in Scouts came three years ago, when he and other Scouts were hiking out of the Grand Canyon.
Lundell saw that one of the younger Scouts was struggling to carry his backpack up the steep trail, Walsmann said. Lundell double-timed out of the canyon and stored his gear at the top of the rim. Then he hiked back down the trail to carry the other boy’s backpack.
"That was just typical of him," Walsmann said. "That’s just kind of the way Jake was. He does things like that. He was always out doing something for somebody somewhere."
Lundell earned his pilot’s license before he left for his mission.
"I think all those kids have been flying since they were old enough to take lessons," Emig said.
Lundell was flying a Nord, a French-made aircraft used to train military pilots, said Kristi Dunks, investigating the crash for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Dunks said it is too early in the investigation to draw conclusions as to what went wrong, but a preliminary report is due by the end of the week or early next week.
She said federal regulations require crash sites to be preserved for investigations, but removing bodies is up to the local coroner.