Nine People Killed in Private Plane Crashes
Undated (AP) _ Nine people died in separate plane crashes this weekend, including two accidents in which private planes sputtered to the ground shortly after takeoff.
Four people aboard a single-engine Piper Cherokee died Saturday when the plane crashed in a field south of Lancaster Municipal Airport near Lancaster, Texas, Dallas County Sheriff’s department spokesman Ray LePere said.
The dead were identified as Jake Thaxton, 41, of DeSoto, believed to have been the pilot; Bell Warren, 64, of Red Oak; Ms. Warren’s son, Edward Warren, 35; and his wife, Mary Warren, 26, both of DeSoto.
Inexperience and bad weather are possible causes of the crash, said National Transportation Safety Board investigators. Skies were overcast at 400 feet at the time with four-mile visibility, LePere said.
In St. Marys, Pa., four people died Saturday night when their single-engine Mooney 200 crashed just minutes after taking off from St. Marys Airport en route to Muncie, Ind., said Pete Nelson, a Federal Aviation Adminstration spokesman.
The four passengers were killed instantly, Coroner James Costanzo said. Efforts to identify the victims have been hampered because the bodies were burned beyond recognition, he said.
Witnesses said they saw the plane burst into flames before it crashed in a wooded area.
″We know there was a fire after the accident,″ Nelson said. ″Whether there was a fire before, we can’t attest to that.″
In Spartansburg, Pa., a man was killed Saturday when his single-engine Piper Warrior II crashed less than 50 yards from a farm house, said state police Trooper Robert Chisholm.
Pilot James W. Hedrick, 32, of Shippingport, was pronounced dead at the scene by Deputy Coroner William Wingo. There were no passengers and no one on the ground was injured. The plane had left Beaver Falls en route to Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The plane clipped the treetops, bounced on a field and then struck an embankment across a rural road, shearing its wing and wheels, Chisholm said. The aircraft then spun end over end in another field and landed near a house.
James Ploss, a neighbor, said he was in his yard when he saw the plane circle three times above nearby fields at about tree-top level.
″I thought he might be in trouble, but his engine sounded like it was running all right,″ Ploss said. ″I saw the tail go up and over like a cartwheel.
″It just hit so hard. That’s a sound you’re never going to forget.″