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‘We’re all in shock:’ Neighbours mourn Toronto-area family of 5 killed in plane crash

A small but growing memorial made up of bouquets and teddy bears formed outside a home north of Toronto on Thursday as a community grieved a family of five killed in a small plane crash in Nashville.

Victor Dotsenko, 43, his 39-year-old wife Rimma Dotsenko and their three children, 12-year-old David, 10-year-old Adam and seven-year-old Emma, were killed Monday as a single-engine plane crashed alongside a highway near downtown Nashville.

The family, who were the only people aboard the plane, lived in King Township, located about 50 kilometres north of Toronto.

Two of their neighbours, Anne and Leo Amore, said the news has left them and others in their community “heartbroken.”

“Just devastated. We’re all in shock,” Leo Amore said as the pair were on their way to buy flowers to leave outside the family’s home.

It’s a real tragedy … We’re all in shock.– Leo Amore, Neighbour of plane crash victims

Amore said he and Victor Dotsenko would often talk in the driveway.

“He was always working on his cars. He just loved his cars and his boats,” he said.

The Dotsenkos were “a wonderful family,” he said, adding their deaths leave a real “emptiness.”

“It’s a real tragedy,” he said.

Anne Amore said the three children were joyful and “full of life,” and the family was “lovely.”

“They were always very, very pleasant, always kind and respectful,” she said.

‘The sweetest kids you’ll ever meet’

The family’s deaths have also left students and staff at the children’s school “completely distraught,” a school administrator said, calling the family “an integral part” of the community.

Alina Pinsky, co-director of the UMCA Rich Tree Academy, a private school north of Toronto, said the family was part of the school community for many years.

David, Adam and Emma were “the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet,” she said in a phone interview.

“These were the most bright, energy-filled kids — everyone in the school loved them, they had so many friends,” Pinsky said. “This was a very, very loved trio in our school.”

A team of people surround the wreckage of a small plane on grass.
Investigators look over a small plane crash alongside eastbound Interstate 40 at mile marker 202 on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (George Walker IV/The Associated Press)

David was a kind-hearted jokester, a smart, bright kid with a “wholesome” personality, she said.

Adam was an avid chess player and the school had recently talked about setting up a tournament so he could show the community what he’d been working on, she said.

Emma was a “sweet, kind young girl, always such a good friend” to her classmates, she said.

Their parents were very involved in the school community and had recently attended some performances, Pinsky said.

“We are so sad as a community and as a school,” she said. “The sadness and the grief that the school is feeling today weighs very heavily on our hearts.”

Father a member of Brampton flight club

King City’s mayor called the deaths a “heartbreaking and devastating loss” for the “tight-knit community.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce, whose riding includes King City — one of three villages within King Township — said he spoke to the mayor Thursday morning to express his condolences.

“I do not know the family personally but whenever these types of tragedies take place, they’re so shocking,” he said. “They have impacts in schools and well beyond, so we’re thinking about the family and we’re praying for them.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called it a “huge and shocking loss for everyone who knew the Dotsenko family.”

Victor Dotsenko was a member of the Brampton Flying Club, said the club’s general manager, Allan Paige. He did his training at the club and obtained his private pilot licence in November 2022, and continued to fly with the club until he bought his plane in the middle of last year, Paige said.

Before the crash, Dotsenko, who was flying the plane, had radioed air traffic controllers to report that his engine had shut down, he had overflown John C. Tune airport and had circled around in an attempt to land.

Investigator Aaron McCarter of the National Transportation Safety Board said the flight originated in Ontario and made stops along the way that were likely to gas up, including Erie, Pa., and Mount Sterling, Ky.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has sent a representative to assist in the crash investigation being led by U.S. authorities.

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