By Ed Nadolski and
Holding candles, shedding tears and sharing fond remembrances, the Antioch, community turned out in force Monday night to memorialize the father and daughter who died Sunday when their single-engine airplane crashed in a field near the Burlington Municipal Airport, just over the stateline.
Todd A. Parfitt, 50, and his daughter Nicole, 14, of Antioch, died in the crash that was reported at 1:26 p.m., according the to Walworth County Sheriff’s office.
Their deaths spurred an outpouring of support on the lawn of the family’s home Monday night as friends, neighbors and classmates held a candlelit vigil in honor of the popular Antioch Community High School dance team member and her father, who had served as a flight dispatcher for United Airlines for 15 years.
The vigil capped a trying day at the school during which students wore purple clothing – Nicole’s favorite color – and counselors were on hand to meet with her classmates as they dealt with the tragic news.
Plane spiraled to ground
According to Capt. Scott McClory of the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department, it appears the Parfitts were attempting to land the single-engine 1972 Grumman Model AA-1B at the airport when the crash occurred, a department press release said.
Both Todd and Nicole were ejected upon impact and suffered fatal injuries, according McClory.
A preliminary report posted by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said the plane was seen spiraling toward the ground prior to impact.
Several news sources have reported that Todd Parfitt kept his plane at the Burlington airport.
The field in which the plane crashed is about two-tenths of a mile east of Highway DD in the Town of Spring Prairie, just inside the Walworth County line.
According to the sheriff’s department, the crash is remains under investigation by both the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration.
The area near the airport was also the site of a crash in September 2004 in which three men from northern Illinois died.
Coping with the news
Antioch Community High School Principal John Whitehurst said Monday that he had not had much contact with Parfitt, because she was one of the “good kids” who didn’t spend a great deal of time in the office.
“She was a talented dancer and made the dance team this year. That is quite an accomplishment as a freshman. She competed against students all the way through senior level to earn a spot, so it is significant that she made the team as a freshmen,” Whitehurst said, adding he had been told she was a dedicated member of the team.
Whitehurst said due to rapid nature of social media many of the school’s 1,330 students had already heard of Parfitt’s death before class began on Monday morning.
“The students got together and decided to wear purple to school on Monday… I am told that was Nicole’s favorite color,” he said.
Whitehurst noted many ACHS students wore purple T-shirts, socks and ribbons throughout the day.
Nicole’s school locker also became a makeshift memorial of sorts. “We had emptied her locker Sunday and today students have been decorating it with flowers, letters, notes, and photos. We will gather those items and give them to the family at the appropriate time,” he said.
Whitehurst said the school staff was notified Sunday of the plane accident and the staff put into action a plan to help students deal with the death of their classmate.
“We made an announcement to students about Nicole’s death in the morning and made sure the students were aware that counselors were at their disposal if they wanted to talk.”
“We also had counselors shadow Nicole’s class schedule. That way students that may not want to go into the counselor’s office, but felt the need to talk, would have someone at their disposal.”
Whitehurst said the school tried to be as proactive as possible. “We have a short week due to Thanksgiving and we want to make sure all students receive the attention they need before the break,” he said.
Nicole and her father, Todd, are survived by mother and wife, Robin, and brother and son Brad, 11, who attends Antioch Middle School.
The crash has also spurred an outpouring of well wishes and support online. A Facebook page tribute to Nicole cropped up a few hours after the news filtered back to Antioch.
This post, attributed to Jennifer Fry Biundo, is typical of the sympathies expressed on the page:
“This was my daughter’s classmate, very sad situation but I have to say her passing has brought a lot of people together and allowed them to put their arguing aside and realize how cherished life can be.”