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Two Planes Collide; 5 Dead

January 21, 1987

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ A military plane and a private plane collided over the sprawling Lake City Army Ammunition Plant on Tuesday, killing an Army general and the four other people aboard the two aircraft, authorities said.

Brig. Gen. David H. Stem, commandant of the military police school and deputy commandant general of Fort McClellan, Ala., was presumed dead pending positive identification of remains, an Army spokesman in Washington said Tuesday night.

The spokesman, Maj. Bill Auer, said Stem was the only passenger aboard a military aircraft en route from Fort McClellan to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The pilot, Maj. Michael G. Johnston, 36, of Alexandria, Ala., was also presumed dead, as was the civilian co-pilot, whose name the Army said it would release Wednesday.

Auer quoted Maj. Gen. Gerald Watson of Fort McClellan, Ala., as saying the aircraft was from the Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Ala.

The crash, which occurred about 12:30 p.m. at an altitude of 7,000 feet over the arsenal east of Kansas City, involved a U-21 fixed-wing military plane and a Piper Navajo, said Lt. Col. John Garlinger, public affairs officer at Fort Leavenworth.

There were about 2,200 civilian workers on duty at the ammunition plant when the collision occurred, but no one on the ground was injured, he said.

Two people were aboard the private plane, Garlinger said. Each plane can seat up to six people. The other victims were not identified, and it was not known where the civilian plane originated.

The main part of the U-21 crashed and burned within 20 feet of a building where workers change clothes, but no one was inside at the time.

Other wreckage from the plane was scattered over an area of about one mile on the 3,900-acre ammunition plant, Garlinger said. The civilian plane crashed about 1,000 yards away.

Air space above the plant is not restricted, said Robert Houtz of the Federal Aviation Administration.

″I ... saw a bright flash and looked up and saw these pieces raining down out of the sky,″ said farmer Glenn Van Dyke, who was driving his tractor in a field near the installation.

Investigators from the U.S. Army Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were sent to the scene.

The arsenal, which has its own security and fire departments and is located about 20 miles east of downtown Kansas City, manufactures small-caliber Army ammunition.

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