Pilot killed in plane crash was ‘adventurous, beautiful’ woman who ‘brightened the room with her smile’
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IDAHO FALLS – A local family is mourning the loss of their daughter and sister after she was tragically killed in a plane crash Wednesday morning.
Chelsea Brittney Infanger, 30, of Salmon was the pilot of a single-engine Cessna 208B plane registered to Gem Air. It crashed into the Gem State Processing Plant in Heyburn around 8:35 a.m. Details of the crash are still being investigated, but Jim Bob Infanger, the pilot’s dad, tells EastIdahoNews.com Brittney, as she was known to friends and family, was delivering packages for UPS when the crash occurred.
“The company she worked for has a contract with UPS,” Jim Bob says. “They’ve got quite a few pilots and they fly six or eight of these routes every day and she was one of their main pilots flying a UPS route for them.”
Brittney had been flying for 11 years and was a “well-respected pilot way beyond her years,” according to her dad.
Jim Bob explains the Burley Municipal Airport is on the bank of the Snake River and on the opposite side is the processing plant his daughter collided with. He says Brittney flew to this airport all the time and was well aware of any obstacles.
“There’s a 60-foot chimney sticking out of the top of the food processing plant — no lights on it, dead center — straight across the runway. So whenever you come in, you have to fly over the top of this and drop down,” he says.
Jim Bob doesn’t officially know what happened but suggests she might have hit a bird on the way down and the coroner thinks the wing may have hit the chimney, causing the plane to flip. The Minidoka County Coroner is expected to release more information about what happened Thursday or Friday, according to the Heyburn Police Department.
In the wake of the crash, Jim Bob is upset with Cassia County for keeping what he calls a dangerous airport in operation.
“That airport needs to be closed, period,” Jim Bob says. “I’m a pilot myself and … many pilots have told me how unsafe the Burley airport is and how they’ve begged the county to relocate it. They’ve allowed this potato processing plant to continue to expand and this chimney comes up and has a huge amount of steam. If the wind is blowing (a certain direction), you fly right into this wall of steam. That was the case that morning.”
Brittney excelled in athletics and lettered in volleyball, basketball and track in high school. Jim Bob was her basketball coach and he remembers one year when she went to the state tournament for pole vaulting.
She graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and was valedictorian of her class. She worked for NBC as a tour guide for the Olympics before serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Birmingham, England.
She later graduated from Utah State University with a degree in business finance. She became a flight instructor in Mesa, Arizona, where she also attended. When the pandemic forced the school to shut down, she moved home to Salmon and went to work for Gem Air. It wasn’t long before she started giving flight instructions and used her own plane with her students.
Brittney’s sister, Emily Goodrich, says Brittney loved flying more than anything and referenced something she said in her last Instagram post.
“I’ve been flying so much lately I think I might be growing wings,” Brittney wrote.
Goodrich describes her sister as an adventurous person who did whatever she set her mind to and was “the most loving and kindest person she’s ever known.”
“I’ve always said sisters make the best friends and she really was the best friend to me. I think everybody who knew her felt like she was their best friend,” says Goodrich.
Recently, Goodrich says she was having a rough day and Brittney called her up and said, “Let’s go have a girl’s day.”
“We loaded up in the plane and she flew us over to Missoula, which isn’t a long flight, and the two of us went and got manicures and pedicures and went to lunch. We were home in Salmon before dinner. She was always caring for and thinking about others. She had a way of brightening your day no matter how big or small the gesture,” says Goodrich.
Sharon, Brittney’s mom, says her daughter brightened the room with her smile everywhere she went and wasn’t afraid to stand up for the underdog.
She treasures the time they traveled to the Bahamas together and swam with sharks.
“I chickened out the last minute. She said she was there for me and said she was going to make it happen. She dragged me along and made sure I didn’t get (my arm) chewed off. It was pretty cute,” says Sharon.
Jim Bob says his daughter was a “perfect,” “beautiful girl” who “never talked back” and “was never a problem one day in her life.”
Since the news of Brittney’s passing, Jim Bob says there’s been an outpouring of love from the community and he’s grateful for the prayers and support. After an unexpected and tragic loss, he’s reminding you to hug your family because “you never know when you won’t be able to tomorrow.”
“The world is a darker place without her light, but I believe Heaven is a little more beautiful with her there. She saw more and lived more in her 30 years than most do in 100. My angel sister has gained her permanent wings,” Goodrich says.
Brittney is preceded in death by a brother. She leaves behind her parents, five siblings and many nieces and nephews. Brittney’s funeral is set for Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. at the Latter-day Saint Stake Center at 400 South Daisy in Salmon.