A young Indian American entrepreneur and five of his friends were instantly killed when the small Piper plane they were flying crashed April 9 near Scottsdale, Arizona.
Anand Patel, 26, founder of What’s Happy Clothing, was one of the victims in the fiery crash that occurred just 15 minutes after the friends boarded the small aircraft at the Scottsdale Airport. A video taken by one of the victims before the incident shows the young passengers having a great time before meeting their deadly fate.
The plane was owned and piloted by James Pedroza, 28, who was taking his friends to Las Vegas. CBS News reports that during his final check-in with air traffic control, Pedroza did not indicate he was having trouble aboard the aircraft.
“Are you experiencing any difficulty?” an air traffic controller asked the 28-year-old, according to the news station.
“Uh, we’re good, we’re just a training lesson,” Pedroza replied just moments before the plane went down. The Federal Aviation Administration has not yet determined the cause of the crash. Investigators are looking into whether the plane was equipped to carry six people.
“Right now, it’s something we’re trying to find out,” said Eliott Simpson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, during a news briefing April 10. The agency said it expects to complete its investigation within two weeks.
In addition to founding the clothing line, Patel, who lived in Edmund, Oklahoma, was an events promoter. Several of his friends aboard the flight were considered “social media influencers.” His friends and family have renamed his Facebook page as ‘Remembering Happy Anand Patel,’ with a message: “We hope people who love Anand Happy will find comfort in visiting his profile to remember and celebrate his life.”
A Facebook friend of the victims has posted videos which appear to have been filmed right before the fatal crash. Sitting in the rear seat, Patel looks excited in those videos.
Patel had emigrated to the U.S. from India about a decade ago to attend college, his twin brother Akash told The Arizona Republic. “My brother was taken away from us doing what he loved to do the most, which was spending time with his friends and flying,” Akash Patel said, adding that he lived a “celebrity life” as an "Instagram star."
"My mom called my brother's cellphone, and a police officer answered and said they found the plane at the crash site," said Akash Patel, in a phone interview with FOX 10. "I think that he is in a better place. He's certainly going to be with us forever in his memories, and how he positively influenced and touched people’s lives."