Co-founder of $1.6B real estate firm killed in plane crash

The co-founder of a $1.6 billion real estate investment firm was among the six people killed when a jet crashed near Lake Tahoe last week.

None of the other victims who died in the crash have been identified, but the Texas-based Rainier Companies said Monday in a press release that its co-founder John Kenneth Dunn, 62, was among those killed on the flight from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the Bombardier CL 600 jet to crash as the pilot was attempting to land at Truckee-Tahoe Airport, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said. There were no survivors.

Dunn created real estate investment firm Rainier Capital Management with his partner Tim Nichols in 2003.

The firm’s website says it currently has $1.6 billion in assets under management.

“The Rainier family is deeply saddened by the loss of its co-founder, partner and friend,” said Rainier President and CEO Danny Lovell. “Our most heartfelt sympathies go to Ken’s family during this unbelievably difficult time. He will be terribly missed.”

Rainier Capital Management co-founder John Kenneth Dunn was among 6 people killed when a plane crashed near Lake Tahoe.
John Kenneth Dunn Obituary

An obituary in the Dallas Morning News said Dunn was “traveling with friends to one of his favorite places on earth, Truckee, California.”

He is survived by his wife, son, daughter, stepdaughter, stepson and three grandchildren.

“After an industrious career in banking and real estate, Ken co-founded Rainier Capital in 2003,” the obituary said. “With his keen instinct for real estate investment, Ken and his partners turned Rainier Capital into a leading commercial real estate investment firm.”

According to the Desert Sun, the other victims on the flight include Kevin Kvarnlov, Ryan Thomas and Christine Thomas, all of whom had connections to Hideaway Golf Club, a private golf club and residential community in La Quinta, California where homes sell for between $2 million and $6 million. 

Jet crash Lake Tahoe
The Bombardier CL 600 jet crashed as the pilot was attempting to land at Truckee-Tahoe Airport.
Matt Mehan/Storyful
Jet crash
An obituary for John Kenneth Dunn said he was “traveling with friends.”
Matt Mehan/Storyful

Officials at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport said the Nevada County Sherriff-Coroner’s Office will confirm the identities of the victims “as soon as there is positive identification and next of kin contact has been made.”

“Our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones, and for those who witnessed the tragedy from the ground,” said Kevin Smith, general manager of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District. “As airport employees, residents, and members of the Board of Directors, incidents like this hurt us deeply, and we will do everything in our power to support the NTSB investigation.”

Leading up to the crash, the communication between the pilot and an air traffic controller appeared normal until the pilot said, “We’re going to have to circle the runway.”

The controller then instructs the pilot to report the “airport in sight.” The pilot, who did not report any emergency, said, “Looking forward to seeing you guys,” according to a LiveATC recording posted by VASAviation.

He then announces: “605 Tango Romeo is making a right hand turn, we got Runway 11 in sight.”

Plane crash.
Other victims on the flight reportedly include Kevin Kvarnlov, Ryan Thomas and Christine Thomas.
Matt Mehan/Storyful

The controller replies: “Runway 11, clear to land, wind calm.”

Seconds later, the plane went down. The jet plummeted between two homes and burst into flames that were quickly extinguished by firefighters.

“It was kind of a shocker, very heartbreaking,” Caroline Bechdolt, co-manager of the golf course, told the San Francisco Chronicle last week.

Luke Brown, who stopped by his mother’s home where a fire extinguisher from the plane had landed, was stunned.

“That almost decapitated someone. I got here 10 to 15 minutes after and it was just flame, blaze, crazy, stuff exploding everywhere,” he told the paper.

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