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Friends and family mourning death of pilot who crash-landed plane in Bermuda Dunes neighborhood

The pilot of a small plane has died after crashing into a neighborhood in Bermuda Dunes Saturday afternoon.

The coroner's office identified the pilot as James Wallace, 83, of Palm Desert. He was pronounced dead at Desert Medical Center in Palm Springs Saturday evening.

Now, friends and family of Wallace are mourning his passing and holding on to his legacy. Wallace became a pilot so young, friends of Wallace said his mom was scared when she found out he got his license.

“He was a real pilot. He was just one of these guys that when you think of a pilot, you know, confident," said Wallace's friend of seven years, Frank Brabec.

Both men are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1116.

“Any given weekend, and in the morning, I could hear his plane rumbling up the taxiway, and it was very distinctive, so I could tell it was him," said Brabec. "So he would come and he'd flip his plane around, and we'd sit at this table and talk about anything. Mostly about his kids that are pilots. He was just so so proud of them.”

Now, that same table served as a gathering place for those who knew Wallace to remember his legacy. Part of that legacy was constantly sharing his love for flying through the Young Eagle Rallies, which is a program that takes kids interested in aviation on a flight for no charge.

“Who knows how many of those kids that he flew those Young Eagle flights for went on to be pilots. We'll probably never know," said Brabec.

Elizabeth Witte met Wallace through the same chapter as Brabec.

“As a plane crash survivor, it was hard," said Witte. "You know you ask questions, why wasn't it me? Or why did he have to go? And it's tough to have to think about.”

Witte only knew him for a short time but was left with a lasting impact.

“When I look at him, that's like, that's who I want to be at 83," said Witte. "You know, it's just I want to be that person who's smiling and still has his plane who's like- I would say, the plane was the love of his life.” (17:51)

A man who bravely risked it all for the love of living life at full throttle.

“He absolutely loved it and I think I can be pretty confident in saying this, and that if I were to ask him right now if he were to go in this way, that he'd be okay with that," said Brabec.

Wallace had plans to see his granddaughter graduate as a pilot from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University next weekend.

As of now, the cause of the plane crash is still under investigation.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.


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