Sister shares memories of plane crash victim
By Paul McManis
Commoner Journal staff writer
McARTHUR — When the single-engine plane crashed at the Vinton County Airport on Christmas Eve, not many local residents were familiar with the names of those who were killed.
For one California resident, though, the accident hit very close to home.
Clare Reynolds Seche, whose younger sister, Siobhan Reynolds, was among those killed, said she was visiting with her mother when she learned of the accident. For her, it was a moment of shock and disbelief.
“We were sitting there at home, I was in the guest bedroom,” Seche said, before looking out the window and noticing five officers coming to the house.
Seche said she let the officers come inside and that is when she heard the news.
“[The officer] told me she was in a plane crash and she’s gone. I fell apart. … I said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’ and I started crying,” Seche said. “I just lost it.”
She said it was the last thing she expected to hear about her sister, who she hadn’t spoken to since late summer.
Seche said she never had a very close relationship with her sister, as the two held a very different philosophy on life and walked differing paths. She said the relationship was challenged sometimes by the strong will of Reynolds, who held strong opinions and would often make those opinions known to others.
Seche said it wasn’t until after the accident that she began to learn more about Reynolds and immediately became interested in her accomplishments.
“It’s shocking how much I learned about her,” Seche said. “I’m really impressed.”
She said Reynolds was always very passionate and outspoken, a trait that wasn’t always attractive for those who were her targets, but one that she feels probably made her such a strong public figure.
She said Reynolds used those traits to fight for people who were suffering with chronic pain and to help the doctors who medicated them.
During that fight, Reynolds met attorney Kevin Byers, and fell in love. Seche said Reynolds met Byers about eight to 10 years ago, but it had only been about a year ago that the two had become romantically involved and became engaged to each other.
Seche said she had also met Byers and quickly gained respect for him.
“They were meant for each other. He was one of her strongest allies and was very supportive of her,” Seche said. “I didn’t know him that well, but he was my kid sister’s fiance, so that was good enough for me.”
Byers was piloting the plane that crashed, which also killed Byers’ mother. Byers died as a result of injuries from the crash on Christmas morning.
Seche said the news of the crash surprised her, as it was only a few weeks before the accident that she had seen a picture of her sister flying in a plane.
She said she is still unsure as to why the accident happened, and although she didn’t know Byers well, she thought of him as a responsible person who was, “very smart and conscientious.” She said she didn’t believe he would have piloted the plane in an irresponsible way.
She said she is awaiting the results of the investigation on the accident to find some clarity as to what happened that day.
The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted an initial investigation and are expected to post the results of their findings anytime, but according to Vinton County Pilot and Booster Association President Nick Rupert, the accident is believed to have been found as the result of a pilot error.
Rupert said the plane had attempted to land once and then went around and tried to land again before crashing near the road that runs parallel to the airport runway.
He said he understands there may be some fear that comes from an accident of this magnitude happening so close to home, but he reminded that flying is a safe mode of transportation and it’s the notoriety of a plane crash that makes flying seem more dangerous.
“Flying in itself is inherently safe. Accidents do happen, but when they do in an aircraft there is a lot of notoriety involved,” Rupert said.
Any fear that may have been transmitted through this accident has yet to show itself in the county, Rupert said. He said there has not been any change in the amount of traffic to the airport since the accident.