Tucson businessman, wife killed in Utah plane crash

Published: Jan. 18, 2016 at 9:40 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 14, 2016 at 11:57 PM MST
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Crews from Utah County Sheriff's office and Lehi Fire Department are on scene of a small plane...
Crews from Utah County Sheriff's office and Lehi Fire Department are on scene of a small plane crash near Cedar Fort. Photo: Gephardt Daily/Kurt Walter

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Authorities have confirmed the identities of two people who were killed in a plane crash in Utah on Monday, Jan. 18.

Donald L. Baker, 59, and his wife, Dawn Elizabeth Hunter, 55, died when their plane, a 1999 Cessna Citation 525, crashed near Cedar Fort, according to a news release.

Baker was the owner and the pilot of the plane.

Authorities said Baker had filed a flight plan leaving from Salt Lake City to Tucson. It appears he encountered some kind of mechanical problems and may have been attempting to return to Salt Lake City.

Witnesses told the Utah County Sheriff's Office they heard a loud boom and saw the airplane, on fire and coming apart, fall to the ground just before 10 a.m.

"I thought someone had actually hit the building," Cheleae Paiz, a manager of an area market, told Gephardt Daily. "I went outside and looked to see if someone had hit the building when the next thing I knew there were cops headed down the road."

According to his Facebook page, Baker is co-owner of Larsen Baker, LLC., a Tucson-based commercial real estate firm.

He married his wife a few years ago.

Staff at Larsen Baker, LLC. released a statement Monday that stated they were "trying to digest this tragedy and ask for forbearance in this extremely trying time."

One real estate expert estimated Larsen Baker, LLC. owns more than 2.5 million square feet of retail space in southern Arizona.

The properties they own include the Marana Marketplace, The Plaza at the Williams Center off Broadway, and the 22nd Street Auto Mall, among others.

Bruce Ash, a certified property manager at the Paul Ash Management company, had known Baker since he moved to Tucson more than 25 years ago.

"I'm just absolutely devastated ... We traveled together. We would have dinner once a month. Don was not the sort of person to take chances. He was a very, very careful pilot; very fastidious at everything that he did, a very, very experienced flyer. I'm just devastated," Ash said.

Harry Mordka, the former owner of Harvey Mordka Realty, described Baker as a professional who was very good at what he did.

Mordka said Baker had acquired his family-owned property, the Frontier Village shopping center at Pima and Alvernon, and done a great job in upgrading the store fronts and parking lot. Baker was also a central figure in Tucson's Jewish community.

Stu Mellan with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona described him as a good philanthropist who contributed time, money and expertise into bringing many projects to life.

Baker was a big champion of the Tucson Hebrew Academy and on the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.

"He was a very heavy hitter. Don was one of the biggest developers and operators certainly here in Arizona, very well respected by all of his peers and by all of his competitors. Everybody thought the world of Don Baker," Ash said.

Authorities said the couple was returning home from a conference in Park City, Utah.

Sources close to the investigation said Baker made a mayday call for help when he encountered bad weather.

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