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Small Plane Crashes at Busy Airport, Missing Tower and Parked Cars

August 24, 1996

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) _ The pilot of a small plane appeared to be struggling to avoid an office building and hotel just before the aircraft crashed in flames short of Seattle’s busy airport, witnesses said.

The lone passenger was killed Friday when the twin-engine Beechcraft Baron clipped a utility pole, cartwheeled three times and slammed into a grassy area near a parking garage at the edge of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The pilot was critically injured.

``He picked about the only spot where it wouldn’t have been crowded with people,″ witness Renee Maurel told The News Tribune.

Joseph Koehler, a security guard who saw the crash, said the pilot was revving his engines, apparently trying to reach the airport while avoiding the seven-story Wyndham Gardens Hotel and the 11-story Sea-Tac Office Tower.

``It still amazes me how he missed the Wyndham and the tower,″ Koehler said. ``That pilot had to do some fighting.″

The pilot had been cleared for a landing at Boeing Field, a few miles to the north, but reported he was disoriented and that he had lost power from one engine, said Debra Eckrote of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The passenger was identified as Theodore K. Harris Jr., 39, of Post Falls, Idaho. The victim initially was misidentified as the pilot because would-be rescuers had pulled his body into the pilot’s seat before they were driven back by flames, Eckrote said. The name of the pilot was not immediately released.

Update hourly