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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crash Kills Child Pilot Seeking To Set Record

CHEYENNE, Wyoming -- A 7-year-old girl trying to become the youngest person to fly across the United States was killed Thursday when her plane crashed shortly after taking off in a driving storm. Her father and her flight instructor also died.

The crash that killed Jessica Dubroff, her father, Lloyd, and instructor Joe Reid happened on the second day of their flight. The plane crashed in a residential area, narrowly missing a house, almost 1 kilometer from the runway.

"It went in nose first," said Dawn Salyards, an area resident. "From the looks of it you could tell, pretty much right away, that there would be no survivors."

Tom Johnson, a 15-year pilot, said he saw the plane shortly after takeoff and it appeared the pilot was trying to return to the airport in the face of the storm marked by driving rain mixed with snow.

"It stalled over my building, winged over and went straight into the ground like a dart," he said.

Johnson, whose office is halfway between the airport and the crash site, said the airplane never got any higher than 120 meters.

"I kept thinking, 'Please! Please get some altitude!'" he said. "It just went right into the ground. I knew no one survived. It would have been impossible."

The plane took off at 8:25 a.m. local time. According to the plans, Reid wasn't supposed to touch the controls except in an emergency. Her father was to sit in the back seat of the Cessna 177B four-seater.

The three had taken off Wednesday morning from Half Moon Bay, California, aiming to arrive Friday in Falmouth, Massachusetts, after overnight stops in Cheyenne and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Guinness Book of Records had ceased recognizing the "youngest pilot" category for fear of encouraging unsafe flights. But Jessica's father had said he was more worried about her horseback riding.

Moments before taking off Wednesday, Jessica said with calm certainty: "I'm going to break the record."

The last youngster listed by Guinness was Rachel Carter, 9, of Ramona, California, who crossed the continent in 1994. Since then, Killian Moss, 8, of Phoenix completed a similar journey last year.

Under Federal Aviation Administration rules the minimum age for holding a pilot's license is 16. In the case of someone younger, they are considered to be a passenger in the plane and the flight instructor is legally responsible for flying the aircraft.

Flying -- along with riding horses, crafting furniture and even helping rebuild a house -- had been part of home schooling for Jessica and her brother, Joshua, 9.

The 127-centimeter, brown-haired Jessica was so short she needed extenders on the plane's pedals in order to reach them.

Joan Burden, who owns a health food store in Falmouth, said the family was well-known and well-liked.

"I had been prepared to go to the airport tomorrow afternoon to greet the plane, but now it's never going to land, is it?"