The Tragic Death Of The In-N-Out President

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Many people know of In-N-Out's young "Burger Billionaire Heiress," CEO Lynsi Snyder, who took over the chain in 2010 at 28. But getting the job came at a steep price. The previous CEOs — her father and her uncle — died tragically six years apart.

In-N-Out was founded by Harry Snyder, Lynsi's grandfather, in 1948. credits Snyder's 100-square foot restaurant with introducing the first bona fide drive-thru, with an intercom and pick-up window. The business slowly grew, finding success with its formula of burger quality versus mass production and a focus on customer service, as well as work culture and fair pay before those terms became mainstream, according to Culture Trip.

When Harry Snyder died of lung cancer in 1976, the single burger shack had grown to 18 restaurants. Son Rich Snyder, although he was only 24 and the younger of Harry's two children, was the "heir apparent," according to journalist Stacy Perman who wrote the book "In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules" (via KCET). Rich had a more serious personality of a CEO, as opposed to the more free-spirited Guy, and had been working in the In-N-Out offices since high school.

Under Rich, the company thrived, continuing its slow and steady growth, per the In-N-Out website, which cited his dedication to employee training and the establishment of In-N-Out University. His tenure saw the addition of 75 additional units in his 17 years as CEO. However, Rich's life would be cut short, too.

Plane crash left no survivors

By 1993, 41-year-old CEO Rich Snyder had grown In-N-Out to 93 restaurants, all while keeping it a family-owned company, according to Nation's Restaurant News.

But on the evening of December 15, Snyder was returning from a one-day trip to five In-N-Out locations when his charter jet crashed just before landing at John Wayne Airport in Irvine, California. The small Westwind 1124A jet had been in a landing pattern behind a Boeing 757 when it suddenly fell to earth and immediately exploded. Everyone on board was killed, including Snyder, In-N-Out's executive vice president and chief operating officer Philip R. West, and the pilots, Stephen R. Barkin and John Odis McDaniel.

The Federal Aviation Administration determined that the pilots of the Westwind were unable to maintain control of the plane as it entered the "wake turbulence" of the much larger Boeing it was trailing. Wake turbulence is a powerful, downward rolling wind created when a plane disrupts the air (via Boldmethod).

Snyder left behind a wife and stepdaughter. In the wake of the accident, Rich's only sibling, Guy, was named CEO, a role he would hold until his own tragic death due to an accidental drug overdose in 1999. The night before the crash was eerily prophetic. Rich and Guy reconciled after a long period of estrangement, with Rich telling his older brother, "We might not see each other again. You're my brother, and I love you" (via KCET).