Washington vintner, pregnant wife and toddler killed in plane crash

The Medina couple and their son were among the 10 aboard a floatplane that crashed off Whidbey Island Sunday.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118

By Sara Jean Green / The Seattle Times

WHIDBEY ISLAND — San Juan Island was considered a special place for Ross Mickel, 47, and Lauren Hilty, 39, who got married in Roche Harbor in October 2019.

The Medina couple and their 22-month old son, Remy, were among the 10 aboard a floatplane that crashed off Whidbey Island Sunday, as it was traveling from the San Juan Islands to Renton, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

All the victims, whose names were released Tuesday morning, are presumed dead. After a fruitless day of searching by air and water, the Coast Guard suspended its search Monday for the missing plane.

“We are deeply saddened and beyond devastated at the loss of our beloved Ross Mickel, Lauren Hilty, Remy and their unborn baby boy, Luca,” read a statement issued Monday night by the Mickel and Hilty families. “Our collective grief is unimaginable.”

The statement expressed gratitude to the searchers and other friends and supporters.

Mickel was a renowned Washington vintner and founder of the Eastside-based Ross Andrew Winery and Hilty was an accountant, according to Mickel’s longtime friends, Ashley and Fred Northup of West Seattle.

“Lauren was kind and warm and laughed easily. Ross made eight million jokes at a time and she was right there with him. They loved each other really well,” Ashley Northup, who grew up with Mickel in Bellevue, said. “The loss of his family is going to leave a really big hole. Their network was so big, the loss is profoundly large.”

In addition to being a talented winemaker, Mickel was an avid outdoorsman who served on the board of Ducks Unlimited. He was also thoughtful and insightful — and intentional about being a good dad to Remy and 12-year-old daughter, Lyla, from his first marriage, the Northups said.

Mickel, who would have turned 48 this month, had a wide network of friends and made it a point to stay in touch, often taking the time to write personal letters and birthday wishes on his 1963 Princess 300 typewriter.

“The magic of Ross was that he was always happy to see you and you were always happy to see him — and Lauren only made it better. She had that same light,” said Fred Northup, a fundraising auctioneer who officiated the couple’s wedding.

The Washington State Wine Commission in a statement said they were “deeply saddened” by the news of family’s death.

“Ross had an incredible impact on the Washington wine community and he will be greatly missed,” the statement said. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones as they navigate this extraordinarily difficult time.”

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