A man who grew up in Danville has been identified as the pilot who died when his ultralight "trike" airplane crashed moments after taking off from the airfield in Hawthorne in Southern California last month.
Joseph Kenneth Audette, 60, of Riverside was pronounced dead at the scene on the morning Oct. 4, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office. He was the only occupant aboard the open-air sport plane, according to investigators.
The co-owner of a lumber company and a married father of four, Audette spent his teenage years in Danville after his family relocated, graduating from Monte Vista High School in 1978, according to a family obituary posted Sunday via Legacy on The Press-Enterprise (Riverside) website.
"Joe was always there to help when a family member or friend needed him. Joe was very loved & will be missed by many. May you rest in peace, Joe," the obituary stated.
The crash occurred around 9:35 a.m. Oct. 4, moments after Audette's Evolution Trikes Revo light sport airplane lifted off from Jack Northrop Field/Hawthorne Municipal Airport southwest of Los Angeles, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.
Family said Audette was an avid pilot of his ultralight sport plane, spending many weekends flying from Hawthorne to Newport Beach and back for the past six years.
According to the NTSB's preliminary report, on that morning the trike plane banked right soon after elevating off the runway and crashed about a quarter-mile away. One witness reported the plane turned right after reaching 500 feet above the ground, while another -- a pilot friend of Audette's who was on the ground at the airfield -- said the bank right occurred after 30 to 40 feet above the ground.
Another witness "watched as the pilot 'pushed the steering to the right and banked harder to the right before flying into the drainage ditch.' The witness also stated that the engine was running the entire time that it was in flight," according to the NTSB preliminary report.
Audette had established communication with an air traffic controller and received clearance to take off, according to the NTSB. Investigators said preliminary flight track data "shows the airplane depart from the runway and veer slightly left of centerline then began a right turn before dropping off of radar." No other aircraft were in the vicinity.
The trike plane hit trees and two rows of fencing before crashing into the wall of flood control channel north of the airport, between West 120th Street and Interstate 105, about a quarter of a mile northwest of the end of the departure runway, according to investigators.
The coroner's office said Audette was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:55 a.m. that day, determining the cause of death to be multiple blunt-force injuries in an aviation accident.
The preliminary report represents initial details about the federal investigation; the NTSB says a final report with a determination on the cause of an aviation accident can take 12 to 18 months.
Audette was remembered as a loving family man who also enjoyed recreational activities and watching Bay Area pro sports teams, according to his obituary.
Born in San Francisco, Audette later lived in South San Francisco and Belmont as a child until his family settled in Danville when he was a teenager. After graduating from Monte Vista High, Audette attended community college before transferring to San Diego State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in accounting.
After getting married, he and wife Bo soon made their home in Riverside in the late 1980s. He worked for years at Champion Lumber Company, of which he and his brother-in-law obtained ownership of in 2006.
Among his favorite recreational activities, Audette enjoyed golf, road-biking, snow skiing and flying his trike plane, as well as taking trips with his family, according to his obituary.
He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Bo, their four children Taylor, Chase, Alexandra and Colby, his parents and his siblings. Memorial service details were not announced.