Brenda says that her son, Brandon, had always wanted to be a pilot. "I'm a teacher, so I get to hear children talk about what they want to be when they grow up," Brenda says. "It changes on a daily basis—but not with Brandon. He took his first plane ride when he was two years old and from that moment, all he wanted was to be a pilot. We used to take him to the airport on weekends to watch planes takeoff and land. We had to wait for him to fall asleep before we could leave the airports because he just wanted to stay there and watch the planes. All he wanted to do was be a pilot."
In 2007, after being laid off from his sales job, Brandon liquidated his assets and started flying lessons. Three weeks after he started his lessons, he earned his private pilot's license. He then took time off for the holidays before enrolling in commercial pilot school. On January 20, 2008—the day he died—Brandon earned his commercial pilot certification.
Brandon was offered a job that same day, but was then told that he was lacking flight time. He had only a little over 100 hours and needed a minimum of 250 flight hours. So, Brandon and another student chartered a plane to fly across the country and accumulate hours. They took off from Corona's municipal airport.
"Two minutes after they took off, the pilot of another plane had a medical condition—a stroke or heart attack or something—and he slumped over," Brenda says. "That plane went into an assent and crashed into Brandon's plane from beneath and behind. Brandon never saw it coming. The crash killed both pilots, both passengers and a man on the ground who was working [he was hit by debris from the plane crash].
"What really upset me is that immediately after the crash, every newspaper assumed the crash was caused by Brandon because he was young and new. They argued that the regulations should be changed so that it's not so easy to get a license. But, the investigation showed that it was the pilot of the other plane who caused the crash. He was in his 70s and had 50 years of flying.
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"I want everyone to know what an incredible young man he was. He was a wonderful person and he was a good pilot. He didn't take those five lives. I know he died happy—he didn't see it coming. He was on cloud nine and his adrenaline was pumping and he was smiling. I'm grateful for that.
"I hope his life will not have been for nothing. And, though I don't see how, I hope that something good will come from his death. Maybe Corona will get a tower at the airport. I don't want even one more mother to have to go through what I'm going through."
If someone you love has been harmed in a plane crash, contact a lawyer to discuss your legal options.