NJ: 2 killed in small plane crash (weather?)

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Headline: 2 Are Killed In Plane Crash in Bean Field in New Jersey

Source: New York Times, 11 July 2001

URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/11/nyregion/11PLAN.html

A pilot and a passenger were killed yesterday afternoon when their two- seat plane crashed into a soybean field just short of the runway at a regional airport in Burlington County, N.J., police and aviation officials said.

The plane, a 1977 Grumman American single-engine craft, went down at 1:09 p.m. near South Jersey Regional Airport in Lumberton, said James Peters, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Lumberton police identified the woman on the plane as Joan Rice, 54, of Philadelphia. The man's name was withheld until his family is notified.

Mr. Peters said the cause of the crash was being investigated by the F.A.A. and the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane's flight and inspection history was not available yesterday because the F.A.A. office in Oklahoma City that tracks such information was being moved.

Walter Hortman, a spokesman for Hortman Aviation, a flight school that operates out of Northeast Philadelphia Airport, said the pilot took off from there about noon after having rented the plane from Hortman for a pleasure flight. The flying time to South Jersey Regional is normally about 15 minutes, so the pair must have done some sightseeing, he said.

Mr. Hortman said the pilot was an experienced aviator who rented craft regularly from Hortman, the last time about a week ago. "Pilots are a pretty tight group, so we're all going through a period of grieving," he said.

Mr. Hortman said the plane, which his company leased from Walter Steen of Weatherford, Tex., had been inspected and was airworthy before yesterday's takeoff.

But skies were not entirely friendly yesterday afternoon 15 miles to the east, above South Jersey Regional, whose owner, Steven Snyder, 64, of Moorestown, N.J., was also killed in a crash while approaching the runway in June 1999.

Visibility was good yesterday, but crosswinds of 10 to 15 knots swept across the airfield, and a student pilot who flew over the wrecked Grumman on his own runway approach minutes after the crash said he was afraid he might become the day's third casualty.

"I didn't think I was going to make it," said the pilot, Mike Murphy of Voorhees, N.J. "When my flight instructor got on the radio and told me about the crash just ahead of me, and that they crashed coming in, I figured there was no way."

"With this wind out of the west, it was just too much," he said.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), July 11, 2001

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