Mich. Plane Crash Victims Mourned
JOSEPH ALTMAN Jr.
Aug. 01, 1999
COTTRELLVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) _ A gathering that was supposed to be a fun-filled weekend of skydiving, camping, food and music became an occasion for mourning after 10 people were killed when their plane crashed en route to the activity they loved.
More than 100 members of the Parahawks, a decades-old skydiving club based at the Marine City Airport, had gathered for their annual pig roast. The crash occurred on the final day of the three-day event.
The club was founded by Pete Myks of Pleasant Ridge. About 10 years ago, Myks turned the operation over to his wife, Nora, and his son, Paul, The Detroit News reported.
Paul Myks, 40, of Canton Township and a DC-9 captain with Spirit Airlines, was at the controls of the twin-engine 1967 Beech King Air 65A-90 that veered left and plummeted into a hayfield moments after takeoff.
Several hundred people attended a memorial service Sunday for the victims. The service was led by a Michigan State Police chaplain and was held at the end of a runway at Marine City Airport in full view of the wreckage.
Russ Turner, a skydiver who has made more than 1,200 jumps, praised Myks following the service.
``I've known him since he was 12,'' Turner said as he fought back tears. ``He was a great father, a great husband, a great pilot, a great friend and a great jumper. He was professional about everything he did.''
Myks, who owned the plane, had logged more than 9,000 hours of flight time, making him ``very experienced,'' said George Black, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. Myks also owned three other planes and was an expert skydiver himself.
He had taken about 20 flights Friday in the plane that later crashed, said Rob Ward, a local man with a plane of his own at the airport.
Saturday morning's fatal flight was the first of the day.
Gary Cooper, regional director of the U.S. Parachute Association, said other members of the club were ``hard-hit by the deaths.''
``This is a real close community,'' he said. ``Everybody knows everybody. It's kind of like a motorcycle club.''
One of the victims, Dawn Alford, 29, of Waterford, went to Marine City nearly every weekend to satisfy her love of skydiving, her next-door neighbor, Peter Markovski, told The Oakland Press of Pontiac.
``She really loved it,'' he said. ``She was just a really good person and neighbor. She was there when you needed her. We helped each other out a lot in the yard.''
The crash wasn't the first tragedy for the club. In 1980, a 33-year-old Parahawk member from Taylor died when his parachute failed to open, and in 1992, a 21-year-old Parahawk member from Oxford died when his chute failed, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported.