Teens in plane crash were the ‘best and brightest’

SILVER CITY (KRQE) – The identities have been released of all four victims of a deadly plane crash near Silver City on Friday, including three Aldo Leopold High School students.

School officials describe the teen victims as the best and the brightest. The three had just finished their sophomore year of high school.

“He was just remarkable,” John Mahl said describing his 16-year-old son, Michael Mahl. “I mean, everyone says that, but this kid was really remarkable.”

The same has been said about 16-year-old Ella Myers and 14-year-old Ella Kirk.

“It’s just impressive what they’ve accomplished in their young lives, and it just only speaks to what could have been,” said Dave Chandler, director of development at the charter school.

Chandler confirmed the three died in a single-engine plane crash Friday along with the pilot, Dr. Peter Hochla.

State Police said the plane cut two electrical wires before crashing and bursting into flames.

Michael Mahl’s father said he heard the sirens from the fire trucks as they went by his office.

When he asked what was happening on Facebook, he learned it was a plane crash.

“I knew that my son was killed,” he said.

He said his son and his friends had been up in the plane to get a look at the burn scar from the recent wildfire.

They were all active in the Youth Conservation Corps Ecological Monitoring Crew and had recently won first place in a statewide environmental competition.

Myers’ biggest love was her horse, Gracie. She was an honors student, on the track team and played the violin.

Also an honors student, 14-year-old Kirk played the fiddle and was next in line to be Editor and Chief of the school’s newsletter.

Michael Mahl also had musical talents, playing guitar and drums. He was an honor student and helped put together the yearbook this year.

His dad said he went to lunch with his son hours before the crash.

“He did say the hamburger he got was the best green chile cheeseburger he had ever eaten and, trust me, we’ve had lots of those,” John Mahl said.

The pilot’s family said in a statement they would like to express their deepest condolences for the victims of the tragedy.

Hochla was a doctor based in Albuquerque. He started flying more than 10 years ago so he could visit more clinics around the state.

Aldo Leopold High School said even though school’s out, it’s open for those who need grief counseling.

The NTSB is investigating the crash cause.

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