July 4th marked 8 years since fatal plane crash

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – July 4, 2024, marked a sad day for many locals. It was eight years ago today that a private plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean off Brookings, killing all three Grants Past residents on board.

John Belnap, an amateur pilot, was flying his teenage son Max, and Max’s fellow Grants Pass High School classmate Ryan Merker back to the Rogue Valley on the evening of July 4, 2016.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report noted that because it was a moonless night external video, visual cues were not easily seen. It said Belknap also did not have much recent night flying experience, and the combination likely caused him to become disoriented, prompting the crash. The report was unclear if any mechanical problems were a factor.

The Belnap/Merker Memorial Scholarship was created in honor of the two Grants Pass High School students

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