Veterinarian killed in plane crash during Fetch dvm360

December 16, 2017

Dr. Mike Zareski and another passenger unable to escape light craft after it hits private home in San Diego County.

A screenshot featuring Dr. Mike Zareski in his clinic, Western Veterinary Group of Torrance, California, captured from a promotional video posted on the clinic website. Dr. Zareski was killed in a plane crash in San Diego County.Among two passengers killed in the Saturday crash of a light plane in San Diego County was well-known South Bay veterinarian Mike Zareski, DVM, owner and clinical director of Western Veterinary Group in Torrance, California.

“On Saturday, Mike was ... with long-time friends and colleagues when the aircraft experienced catastrophic engine failure and was unable to land safely,” reads an open letter from Dr. Zareski's wife, Shanna, on his clinic's website.

Along with Dr. Zareski, four others were involved in the crash, including the pilot, who has yet to be named, and fellow veterinarian Dawn Stelling, DVM, with her husband Robert Stelling, the second fatality, local news outlets report. Dr. Stelling had been attending the Fetch dvm360 conference in San Diego.

According to a release from the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office, “The pilot attempted to land the plane in the schoolyard of Lafayette Elementary School and was unable to fully stop the plane, striking a private residence in San Diego.” Dr. Zareski and Stelling were trapped inside the plane and did not survive, while the pilot, his wife and Dr. Stelling managed to escape and were transported to a local hospital, the report reads.

Dr. Zareski was known for enjoying “sunny days here in the South Bay with his wife, Shanna, daughters Jordana and Hannah, sons Christopher and Drew and their cats, Delilah and King Soloman,” the clinic's website states.

While he spent much of his time as a veterinarian and practice owner, Dr. Zareski also founded the 4Ever Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps cats and kittens find adoptive homes. The family is requesting donations to the foundation in lieu of flowers.

“Mike personified everything a veterinarian should be,” his wife's letter reads, “kind, loving, compassionate. He had a heart that never stopped giving. Mike was even known to extend his help to those who didn't know they needed help at the time.”

Shanna Zareski says she intends to carry on and grow her husband's practice and that his associates will also continue the legacy of care Dr. Zareski established. “Our WVG staff and families know that Mike touched a tremendous number of people with his overwhelming compassion, generosity and kindness. His legacy will live on in our four beautiful children and in Western Veterinary Group,” she says in her letter.