In an instant, Mark Scheck’s life as he knew it had changed. On Monday, February 27, Mark was on his way to an appointment when his wife, Lori, called. “I heard a plane crashed in our neighborhood,” said the frantic voice on the other line. “It can’t be our house,” thought Mark.
When Mark arrived home, he found his street blocked off. It was then that he learned the home he purchased four years ago on Rhonda Rd. in Riverside was one two homes a Cessna T310Q slammed into. Passenger Joanne Stacey Pierce was ejected from the plane and pulled by firefighters from Mark’s children’s bedroom window. Joanne survived the crash but succumbed to her injuries eight days later. She was the fourth victim. Passenger Sylvia Farelas is the lone survivor.
“We lost everything,” said Mark. “It was a total loss. Everything is either destroyed or covered in soot.” The family’s pets, three-year old Labrador Retrievers, Lucy and Sky, and 15-year-old cat, Hunnabunny, also perished in the crash.
Mark says telling his children, ten-year-old Lilly and seven-year-old twins Landon and Logan, that their pets were gone was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. “The kids were sobbing. We all just held each other and cried. It was the only time I cried during this whole thing. ” he says. “The house we can always get back, but the animals we can’t. Our animals were like our kids, they were part of the family.”
Mark’s children have not been back to their home since leaving on the morning of the crash. The Schecks told their children few details about the crash and why they can’t return home, but spared them from most of the details and from seeing their house in its current state. “We had to tell them what happened because they will hear about it at school, but we provided little details. We don’t want to traumatize them by letting them see that,” he says. “They lost everything and don’t really understand. They’re young kids.”
Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and even complete strangers as far away as the East Coast have reached out to help the family in their time of need. In addition to gift cards and monetary donations, the family received 40 bags of used clothing and 15 boxes of new kitchen items. “We still have a lot of bags of clothing to sort through. What doesn’t fit us, we’ll donate to a local church,” says Mark.
The neighbors on Mark’s street have bonded over the tragedy that occurred on that fateful day. “Before the crash, I didn’t really know or talk to my neighbors. We kept to ourselves. When I went back to check on my home, I had neighbors coming up to me and giving me money and offering help. They are good people. I think this brought us all closer together”
Mark’s neighbor, the resident of the second home destroyed by the crash, also lost everything, including his 12 cats. According to Mark, his neighbor was sitting on his couch doing a crossword puzzle when the plane crashed and sent up a fireball. “It’s a miracle he survived,” says Mark.
Lori’s mother, Debbie Lenke, set up a gofundme account to help her daughter and son-in-law rebuild their lives. She says, “These funds will be used to supply them with all essentials to live, such as clothing, shoes, groceries, school supplies, sports items, personal times as they only have what they were wearing that day.” To date, the couple received over $31,000 in donations through the account.
Although homeowners insurance will help to cover the cost of the Schecks rebuilding their home, they are still responsible for bills they incurred a few months ago when they made some upgrades. “We put a new roof on the house at a cost of $18,000 and had recently upgraded the windows at a cost of $13,000. The house is gone but we still own those bills,” Mark says.
For now, the family is living with Mark’s parents. “The contractor said it will take about nine months to rebuild our house,” Mark says. Mark took a two-week leave of absence from his Food and Beverage Director position at the Lodge so he can be with his children while they adjust to their new life, and so that he can deal with inspectors, insurance agents and contractors.
Mark and Lori are overwhelmed by the support and generous donations they received, especially from the Canyon Lake community. “We would like to thank everyone for their very, very generous donations and support.”