Saturday, April 23, 2011

Small plane crash in Kan. kills 4 on Easter trip

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A small airplane carrying a young couple and their daughters on their way to visit friends for Easter crashed in a muddy Kansas corn field Friday, killing all four, officials said.

The six-seat Beechcraft plane registered to Precision Ag & Seed Services LLC in Scott City went down about noon roughly 3 miles northeast of the capital city of Topeka. Federal Aviation Administration records show the aircraft took off from Scott City in western Kansas and was headed to Topeka's Phillip Billard Airport.

The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims as Richard Dylan Spencer, 35; Amy Beth Spencer, 34; and their daughters, Chase Spencer, 7, and Ansley Spencer, 5.

Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig said based on a witness' account, he believed the plane's motor sputtered and then cut off before the crash. The plane left a long trail of wreckage in conditions so sloppy emergency crews initially had trouble reaching the debris. The plane appeared to narrowly miss a large wooden high voltage transmission line. Crews were assessing the site to see if the line was affected.

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the pilot was attempting an approach in instrument flight rules conditions and practiced a missed approach - a common training practice for pilots when they almost land but pull up at the last second. Under instrument flight rules, or "IFR," the pilot uses instruments to fly the plane and visibility is not good.

Knudson said the plane was circling the airport after the missed approach when it crashed, and there was no distress call made before it hit.

The man who reported the crash experienced chest pains after rushing from his home to the scene, more than a half-mile away. An ambulance crew was sent to check him out, and he is OK, Herrig said.

Weather conditions around Topeka were cool and damp but there were no severe storms in the area when the crash happened.

Eric Johnson, president and director of airports for the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority, said conditions were "kind of gloomy but not in my opinion terrible weather."

"I don't believe we had high winds or anything too terribly unusual," he said.

Lonnie Roark, a licensed pilot who lives about a mile from the crash site, said he was walking his Irish Setter when he heard the plane. He never saw it, but thought it was flying low for the overcast conditions.

"The clouds started dissipating, and then I started hearing it come back like it had turned to come back toward me, and then I heard the engine speed up and two loud booms and that was it," he said.

"I knew something bad happened."


Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report from Kansas City, Mo.

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