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Candidate Killed As Plane Crashes More Than 500 Miles Off Course

June 5, 1987

SHATTUCK, Okla. (AP) _ The single-engine plane flown more than 500 miles off course by a Louisiana gubernatorial candidate crashed after it ran out of fuel, a federal investigator said Thursday.

″There wasn’t a drop of fuel in that plane,″ said Armand Edwards, a senior safety investigator for the Fort Worth, Texas, district of the National Transportation Safety Board.

″That is why it finally crashed,″ Edwards said. ″It just ran out of fuel. From what witnesses are saying, it appears the airplane was just flying itself, at least during the last portion of the flight.″

The plane containing the body of Butch Baum was found on a desolate hillside about 12 miles south of Shattuck near the Texas border Wednesday when a rancher on horseback saw the wreckage glinting in the sunlight.

Baum may have been unconscious at the time of the crash, Edwards said.

The 49-year-old insurance executive who had more than 30 years’ flying experience left Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday for a business meeting in Alexandria, La. His single-engine, Cessna 210 flew past Alexandria in a straight line.

Edwards said investigators believed the plane crashed about 12:30 p.m.

Witnesses’ descriptions of the plane as it flew in northwest Oklahoma near the Texas border were consistent with the actions of a pilotless plane, Edwards said. Light planes have a tendency to fly themselves when no one is at the controls, he said.

″Maybe he was unconscious,″ Edwards said of Baum. ″It would seem unlikely that he was asleep, especially if the plane was moving around like it was.″

State medical examiner Fred Jordan said an autopsy showed Baum was alive at the time of the crash and died of multiple injuries, including major wounds to his head, chest and neck. More tests were planned and were expected to take two to three weeks to complete, Jordan said.

Baum’s campaign manager, Nancy Todd, said he had been in excellent health.

Baum, a Democrat, was one of nine candidates in Louisiana’s gubernatorial primary in October. Polls indicated he was near the back of the pack, trailing Gov. Edwin Edwards and U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston.

In 1983, Baum lost his bid for state agriculture commissioner.

Mac Suthers of Arnett said he saw the plane shortly after noon Wednesday doing what he thought were maneuvers too close to the ground. The plane was making sharp turns, he said.

″It flew behind a hill but we didn’t see any dust, smoke, anything,″ Suthers said. ″We supposed it flew down the draw.″

A friend who was moving cattle saw the plane wreckage shining in the sun, Suthers said.

″We went over there in the evening,″ Suthers said. ″The left wing was pretty well tore off. The motor was still intact but it was broke loose. You could still tell it was a plane. It wasn’t in bits and pieces.″

Baum is survived had a wife, Janet, and three children.

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