Friends and family remember Redding brothers killed in Ethiopian plane crash

A prayer offering was held Tuesday morning for brothers Mel and Bennett Riffel.

Posted: Mar 12, 2019 7:03 PM
Updated: Mar 12, 2019 7:13 PM

Two brothers killed in an airliner crash in Ethiopia Sunday were remembered at a memorial service in Redding Tuesday.

A few dozen people gathered outside the Saint Joseph’s Church leaving flowers and photos paying tribute to Melvin and Bennett Riffel.

The ceremony began with a prayer.

Afterward, many stayed to comfort one another and share their memories of the brothers.

A group of long-time friends of Mel said he and Bennett will be deeply and painfully missed.

“Mel was like a brother to me, to all of us,” friend Seng Saechao said. “We were all really good friends. We went on trips together. We celebrated birthdays together ... Mel had his younger brother Bennett with him on the flight. And he's such a great guy. I mean, he's a quiet little, loving giant. You know, he was more of an introvert. But when he got to know us and he opened up, he was just like Mel.”

The brothers were on their way to Africa from Australia as part of a "babymoon” trip.

Friends say it was a final adventure before Mel became a father.

Mel's wife Britney is expecting a baby girl, Emma, due this spring.

Mel worked as an equipment operator at Caltrans in Redding.

“He was a dedicated civil servant who worked for Caltrans for nearly a decade and our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues.” Caltrans Director Laurie Berman said in a statement Tuesday.

Bennett lived and worked in Chico for the past six years at Vista Net, an IT and computer services company.

The company's co-owner Scott Brown said Bennett was a great guy and they miss him horribly already.

You can click here to donate to a GoFundMe account to help with baby expenses for Mel’s widow.

The goal is $30,000 as Mel would have been 30 this year.

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