Mother of passenger told pilot before fatal Franklin crash: ‘You better take care of my baby’

March 5, 2019

Allison Forsythe was only three months from earning her master’s degree in counselor education at East Carolina University, but it was spring break, and she needed to get away.

So, her mother, Lori Forsythe, drove her to the Triangle North Executive Airport near Louisburg on Friday night so Allison, 26, could fly to Hilton Head, S.C., with her best friend, Jessica Kenny, and Kenny’s boyfriend, Brian Sjostedt.

The trip would be Allison Forsythe’s first time on an airplane.

Lori Forsythe recalled meeting Sjostedt, a longtime pilot, that night.

“You better take care of my baby,” she told him.

“You don’t have anything to worry about,” he replied.

The single-engine Cessna C182 was in the air for less than 20 seconds before it crashed at Clifton Pond Road near McWilder Road at about 7:30 p.m. Friday, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

The plane wound up submerged in a pond, with debris scattered about. Authorities weren’t able to recover the wreckage until Saturday afternoon.

Authorities said they do not believe a distress signal was sent before the crash. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said it could be a year before they determine the cause of the crash, although they will release a preliminary report in the next week to 10 days.

Lori Forsythe said the last text she received from her daughter was at 7:07 p.m. Friday. “Going now,” it said, to which her mother responded with “love you” and a heart emoji.

By 9:45 p.m., Lori Forsythe said, she hadn’t heard anything, so she texted, “U there yet?”

That was followed by “Hey” and “I’m worried about u. Please call.”

There was no response to any of her messages.

When she saw on the late news that a Cessna bound for Hilton Head crashed in Franklin County, “I lost it,” she said.

She and her husband drove to the crash site, praying. “I knew it was Allison,” she said.

John Kenny, Jessica’s father, said a family friend alerted him of the accident. When he drove to the scene, emergency responders confirmed his worst fear.

“He said we’ve recovered one body, and it’s your daughter, and I just obviously went to pieces,” Kenny said Sunday.

“We sat there and hugged and cried and did all that kind of stuff and, you know, just waited to hear what we could hear,” he said.

Jessica Kenny was his only daughter, he said, and had dated Sjostedt for nearly a year.

Sjostedt was an officer with the Raleigh Police Department from 1998 to 2005. The retired Marine also had served as an investigator with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office and owned his own business, Vetted International, to provide emergency response services to clients around the world.

“He was an incredible pilot – very talented, very careful. very cautious and very calculated,” Zack Medford, a friend of Sjostedt, said Monday. “It was a rough day to be flying. Brian had the best judgment of anyone I ever met. I trusted him with my life time and again.”

Sjostedt regularly flew friends across the country, Medford said.

“He was just one of the nicest guys I’d ever met. He’d give you the shirt off his back,” he said. “It was a freak accident. It just breaks my heart.”

For Lori Forsythe, she’s comforted by the word that appears beneath her text to her daughter of “love you” and the heart – “Delivered.”