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Canadian town mourns 'devastating loss' of family killed in Nashville plane crash

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Police in Tennessee identified those killed in a fiery small plane crash next to Interstate 40 on Monday as a family of five from Canada.

The pilot was Victor Dotsenko, 43, and the passengers were his wife Rimma, 39, and their three children, David, 12, Adam, 10, and Emma, 7, Metro Nashville Police said in a news release.

“I was shocked. I couldn't believe it at first, when I got the call,” Rabbi Chaim Hildeshaim said in a telephone interview. The family were members of the Chabad Russian Center of Thornhill Woods, he said. He officiated at the couple's wedding and counted them as friends.

Victor Dotsenko was “a very, very generous person, a very, very kind person,” he said, adding that his wife was also very kind. “They had a beautiful relationship between them. They were great parents as well.”

Victor Dotsenko installed windows and when the synagogue needed new ones, he donated the entire installation, Hildeshaim said. The family often came to the rabbi's home and Victor Dotsenko would come by the synagogue and pray together with him.

“I would ask people to do a good deed in their memory, an act of kindness ... in memory of this family, these beautiful five precious souls,” he said.

The Mayor of King Township, where the family lived, released a statement on Thursday calling the deaths “a heartbreaking and devastating loss for our tight-knit community.”

“While we await further details from the ongoing investigation, our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of the victims during this incredibly difficult time,” the statement from Mayor Steve Pellegrini reads. “We also extend our gratitude to the first responders and officials involved in the response and investigation.”

The UMCA Rich Tree Academy posted a statement saying the three children were “part of the UMCA family for many years.”

“These beautiful children lit up our hallways every day. They all had such a positive energy and attitude towards their friends and teachers,” the statement reads. “Words cannot express the profound sadness and grief we are experiencing as we mourn the loss of the Dotsenko family.”

Their flight originated in Ontario and made stops in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, likely to refuel, before attempting to land in Nashville at dusk on Monday evening, NTSB investigator Aaron McCarter said at a Tuesday news conference.

Victor Dotsenko radioed to air traffic controllers at around 7:40 p.m. saying his engine has shut down. He said he overflew John C. Tune airport, just west of downtown, at 2500 feet (762 meters) and circled back around, according to a recording of the transmissions.

“I’m going to be landing — I don’t know where!” Dotsenko said.

The air traffic controller told him they were clearing a runway and urged him to try to glide in.

But he said they had already descended to 1600 feet (488 meters), and in his last transmission he said, “I’m too far away. I’m not going to make it.”

Many witnesses called 911, some of them still in shock and disbelief at what they had seen, according to audio of the calls obtained through a public records request. Some who didn’t see the plane fall assumed a car or truck had caught fire.

“Oh my God. It almost hit my car!” one caller said.

Another said the explosion was so big that she had to swerve around it on the interstate with her three kids in her car.

“We were driving, and I saw it kind of come across out of the corner of my eye, and I saw that it was tilted,”

McCarter said they packed up the wreckage for transport to a facility in Springfield, Tennessee, where the plane will be reassembled. The NTSB will have a preliminary report out in about 10 days. The full report will take about nine months.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the last name of Rabbi Chaim Hildeshaim.

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report.