A popular Eagle Mountain resident who shot and killed himself while flying a power parachute on Wednesday night left a message on a friend's phone hours before and "sounded fine."
Greg Kehl was found dead after police responded to a domestic disturbance at his home shortly after 5 p.m. Kehl, 42, was attempting to leave his home via his power parachute when people there took the keys. He then fired a pistol, not at anyone, before the keys were handed over, said Utah County Sheriff Lt. Darin Durfey.
The aircraft crashed near American Fork around 6:17 p.m.
Durfey declined to go into detail about a possible motive for the suicide, other than to say Kehl did have stresses in his life.
Kehl was popular enough in Eagle Mountain to have a building named after him -- the Greg Kehl Public Works Building located on Sweetwater Road in Town Center. He left behind a wife and two teenage sons.
His friends said Thursday that they were surprised by the events leading up to his death. Kehl, an Eagle Mountain City Councilman from 2000 to 2004 and mayoral candidate in 2001, was remembered as having a good sense of humor and being direct.
"I was shocked when I heard. It was totally out of character," said Diane Jacobs, a friend of Kehl's. "He was phenomenal, meticulous, fun, a super dad. He loved his kids beyond belief and his wife as well. Greg had a way of telling a story that would just keep you in stitches for hours."
Diane Bradshaw, a friend of the Kehl family said, "He was a very colorful person. He loved his wife. He would have done anything for his boys, and he was one of the funniest people I know."
She said Kehl was known for his cleanliness and that he grew wonderful strawberries in his garden.
Bradshaw received a phone message from Kehl hours before his death and she said he sounded fine. She said she couldn't explain what happened, but hopes that the public will respect the Kehl family during this difficult time.
Mark Lofgren, who served with Kehl on the City Council, said Kehl "really cared about the City and not his own agenda." Lofgren also said, "What I loved about Greg was that he was not afraid to tell you what he really felt. He was very open, very easy to get along with. He will be very missed."
Willie Miller, who bought a power parachute from Kehl a few years ago, said Kehl was "very fair and friendly." Miller flew with Kehl more than a dozen times and said Kehl was "very good at what he was doing."
Miller also said, "Greg was very knowledgeable about flying and very safe. He was very meticulous about his trailer and truck. Everything was immaculately beautiful. If there where specks of dirt on his parachute from the landing he cleaned it off immediately."
Miller said he spotted Kehl's parachute headed southwest over the Cedar Valley Airport Wednesday around 5 p.m. and thought the wind was a little strong for flying, but did not think much of it until he later heard the news of the crash in American Fork.
The sheriff's office is asking residents in the American Fork and Highland areas for help with locating the gun used in the suicide, which was not found at the scene.
"We're talking a huge area," Durfey said.
The gun is described as silver .357 revolver with a wooden hand grip, between 4 and 6 inches long. Police ask that residents in the area look in their yards and fields for the weapon. If found, the gun shouldn't be moved by anyone other than a police officer. Anyone with information about the gun should call police at 851-4100 or 911.
The investigation is ongoing, and pending autopsy and toxicology results may be available in the next month or month and half.
Linda Peterson, Community Relations Coordinator for Eagle Mountain, spoke on behalf of the city Thursday.
"It's a very sad event. We extend our sympathy to his family," Peterson said.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A1.