On Sunday March 10th our junior systems engineer, Bennett Riffel, was on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, Kenya. He and his brother Melvin were both on the flight. They were taking a month-long “trip of a lifetime”, touring the world from Australia to Egypt before Mel’s daughter was to be born in May.
Bennett came to work with us at VistaNet in December of 2012 as a purchase manager and receiving clerk. He was only 20 years old, but fell into the position easily and excelled in it remarkably fast. After about a year, he decided he would rather be a member of our technical staff and was moved into a junior systems engineer role where he was rising quickly to the ranks of a mid-level engineer. His customer support skills were amazing and he was a sponge for new information. Always eager to learn and experience anything and everything he could.
We’ve created this page as a memorial to him. It is our way of paying tribute to a young man, full of life and talent, who was tragically taken away from us horribly too soon.
We will forever cherish the time we had with him and the impact he had on all of our lives.
Feel free to leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
Bennett was like no one I’ve ever met. I know I feel the same as everyone when I say that I’m utterly devastated by his loss. Always quick to learn and eager to find the details in how things work, Bennett was always striving to be better at everything. He was exactly, to the day, one year younger than my oldest son. It made it easy to remember his birthday at the office. Bennett had a dry wit and humor that always brightened up the shop and it never favored anyone. He was warm and sincere, but not patronizing. Our customers loved him for that. He never ceased to amaze and shock us at our annual Christmas parties with over the top outfits and even more over the top conversation. Never hurtful, and always and from a place of love and mutual respect. I still keep expecting to get a call from DJ Rawls. You are missed terribly already dude.
I am forever thankful for getting the opportunity to meet Bennett. He came in to our shop on his final day of work before his trip to complete an ongoing project that I had started myself over a year ago, but never had the means to finish alone. He was kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and had sense of humor that fit in oh-so-well with our whole shop crew. We have very few vendors that come do work for us on-sight, so I remember the ones we do have quite clearly. Bennett, however, stood out to me even further than our few *regular* vendors. His appearance and attitude were both strikingly similar to my brother (same age as well), so with all of those factors combined, his life and light carried a very unique presence to me. While he was here he excitedly told me about his travels he was embarking on, and we shared a few stories of adventures we’ve had in the past. I feel so fortunate to have connected with a professional who excelled so much in their field, but also who seemed to carry the aura of an old friend. I was so looking forward to hearing all about his worldly ventures when he returned. In the grand scheme of things, I truly only knew Bennett for mere minutes. My heart is so heavy for those who knew him well, because within the very short time I was lucky enough to know him, I could tell he was really something else. Something special. Bennett is now a memory I will carry forever. I will always be grateful we met.
Bennett was such a sweet young man that I enjoyed meeting through VistaNet. He was very patient and kind especially when addressing our our issues, he’d drive out to take care of some of them all the way to Nelson which was a treat for us, I will miss you Bennett!!
Bennett was remarkable at solving long distance issues/remote service issues for our business. He was always so helpful and never made me feel badly for not being able to explain the issues in tech. speak! He was very kind, and I enjoyed working with him. May he and his brother rest in peace.
I met Bennett in middle school but got to know him in High School. At the time I felt like I had to project being someone better than I was in order to give myself value. If you know Bennett, you know he cut right through the barrier I had put up when we first met. He was the type of person who gave his time to people who were honest about who they were. People who weren’t fake, who’s identity didn’t revolve around their clique or ego. That’s just who he was to me. When I was able to get closer to him I never felt so accepted. Here is a person who I think see’s people as they are, and saw me as someone who was worth talking to. He was infuriatingly intelligent. As much as you wanted to speak on something, Bennett probably knew more and could explain it better. It breaks my heart that a walking example of don’t judge a book by it’s cover isn’t around anymore. A truly unique, hilarious, intelligent person taken from us too soon and I wished I had kept in touch. Miss you.