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An aspiring model and former Cardinal Newman High School student who left school early to pursue her career goals was among six people killed in a single-engine plane crash Monday night in Scottsdale.

Mariah Coogan, 23, was on her way to Las Vegas Monday night from the Scottsdale Airport with a group of friends when the Piper PA-24 Comanche she was on crashed into a nearby golf course shortly after takeoff.

Social media posts from Coogan and the plane’s five other passengers show the group boarding the plane and posing for pictures from the backseat as its engine whirs in the background.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Coogan was a member of the 2013 class of Cardinal Newman High School, but left school after fall semester her junior year to pursue a promising modeling career. Since leaving Sonoma County, she had successfully amassed a social media following in excess of 27,000 people, secured contracts with brands and recently moved into a modeling house in Hollywood, said her mother Stacey Coogan.

“She’s just a bright light,” Stacey Coogan said. “She’s been such a great child to have. I mean, she’s my first, and her middle name is Sunshine, and she has proven that name because any room she walks into, she smiles and brightens the whole room. I’m going to miss her so much.”

Coogan’s family, which lives in Forestville, learned of the crash Tuesday morning, when a friend noticed that the tail number of the plane she boarded seemed to match that of the plane involved in the Scottsdale crash, Stacey Coogan said.

Mariah Coogan is survived by three brothers and one sister, as well as her mother and father, Chris Coogan, who together own Guerneville restaurant The Farmhand and the adjacent dispensary Riverside Wellness Collective.

“It’s just going to be very hard not having her in our life,” Stacey Coogan said.

The plane, which can seat up to six people, took off around 8:45 p.m. for what should have been a 1½-hour flight to Las Vegas, NTSB investigator Elliott Simpson said in a news conference. It crashed moments later on the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course, about three-quarters of a mile from the departure end of the runway, Simpson said. No one on the ground was injured.

TPC Scottsdale is the annual site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which wrapped up Feb. 4.

News of Mariah Coogan’s death rippled through Cardinal Newman High School Tuesday, shocking the tight-knit campus where many current students know the Coogan family, Principal Graham Rutherford said.

“At this point, we’re just trying to digest it,” he said. “She wanted to have opportunities to do things that were exciting and fun, and that’s what she was doing. So it’s just very sad that she would die doing some of the stuff that she really wanted to do because she was open to life and open to the possible adventures that were out there.”

Rutherford remembered her as a kind and popular girl, and a serious equestrian.

“We’ve got her family in thought and prayer,” Rutherford said. “It’s a very difficult time when that happens, and you know, the grief — everybody feels it because she touched people’s lives.”

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Despite interviews with family and numerous social media posts naming the victims, the Scottsdale Police Department would not confirm their identities Tuesday.

But one of Mariah Coogan’s Instagram posts identified the pilot as James Pedroza. His Instagram account was updated Tuesday afternoon with a photo of him and a caption that reads, “Last night the world took James Pedroza from us in a plane crash. There were also thought to be 5 other beautiful souls on board. James had a wide network of friends and loved ones. We are all in shock over this tragedy and have no words.”

NTSB investigators worked Tuesday to gather “perishable evidence” at the site of the crash, along with video and audio recordings from the airport. The agency planned to recover the plane Tuesday evening, before taking it to a storage facility in Phoenix for further inspection, Simpson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or christi.warren@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @SeaWarren.

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