Families of Navasota plane crash victims speak out

Eleven-year-old Jessicka Argueta and her 7-year-old sister Erika Ayala-Argueta died in a plane crash in Grimes County Sunday.

NAVASOTA, Texas – Eleven-year-old Jessicka Argueta and her 7-year-old sister Erika Ayala-Argueta died in a plane crash in Grimes County Sunday.

Grief counselors were at J. Ruth Academy, where the girls attended school, and letters were sent home with parents.

The two girls left their home around 7:30 a.m. Sunday with their mother's boyfriend, 40-year-old Amjad Sultan, and headed to Hooks airport. Their mother, originally from El Salvador, told KHOU this was their second time flying with Sultan. She had been dating Sultan, also her landlord, for four years. His 67-year-old instructor Russell Reina was on the plane too when it took off around 8:15 a.m. Sunday.

Investigators said about an hour later, another plane in flight noticed the wreckage in a pasture about a mile and a half away from the Navasota Municipal airport.

Monday, the NTSB arrived at the crash site and began their investigation.

Sultan's family said he had just purchased the Cirrus SR-20.

"We lost him, but we also lost somebody who probably had children. It's a tragedy for our country, a tragedy for our community. It's so sad," said Jeff Akhtar, the victim's brother.

Akhtar visited the crash site where his brother Sultan was killed, doing what he loved.

"Last month he bought it. This month he died," said Akhtar. "It's just an accident. It's nobody's fault. I hope nobody is held responsible for that."

He said he chooses to focus on his brother's legacy: coming from Pakistan to live the American dream. He did just that. He owned real estate and several businesses and always put others first.

"He donated so much money to the community, to the people. Anybody wanted to go to Pakistan and didn't have the money, he would give them $5000. It was like a piece of cake," said Akhtar.

KHOU spoke with the girlfriend and neighbor of Reina, the pilot of the plane.

"His fantasy was to fly. Absolutely loved to fly," said Reina's neighbor of 16 years.

That's what Reina spent his last moments doing.

"I know his family and all of his friends out here are going to miss him terribly," his neighbor said.

The man also spoke about how loved and how accomplished Reina was. He was once a police officer, a marine and more.

"Took a job with the DEA. Traveled worldwide and came back here after retirement," the neighbor said.

Reina spent his retirement with his girlfriend and his other love: teaching people to fly. Sunday was one of many lessons he had given Sultan.

The pilot was recognized by the FAA.

"Has the best ratings you could imagine for a pilot," the neighbor said.

The Argueta girls leave behind two younger sisters. All four of the victim's loved ones share in the grief of so many lives lost as they wait for investigators to provide answers.

"He's flown with the same fella several times, giving him lessons. And the tragedy of seeing those two young girls pass as well is just sad," the neighbor said.

Investigators said the pilot did not make any calls for help.

 


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