GOMER — Al Tyrell of Uncle Al’s Pizza didn’t see anything of the aircraft that hit the ground Thursday night after flying over Gomer, but he heard the weather — the wind and rain that likely turned an almost 400-mile flight over the Midwest into a two-fatality tragedy.
“The weather was heavy, but the downpour lasted just a few minutes. It wasn’t a storm, just heavy wind and rain,” Tyrell said.
According to the talk floating around Gomer, no one in the small town saw the plane fighting the weather overhead, but a few swear that they heard a plane engine working hard to stay aloft, Tyrell said.
As for official sources, the cause of the plane crash in northern Allen County Thursday remains under investigation. Details, however, about the aircraft involved — a 1981 Beech A36 aircraft stationed in Iowa — reveals more info on the flight and potential identities of the pilot and passenger who died in the crash.
According to registration information collected by the Federal Aviation Administration, the single-engine fixed wing aircraft was registered to a farm located in Bellevue, Iowa, owned by the Niemann family, who were heavily involved in aviation and crop-dusting.
Flight-tracking websites place the origin of their flight in Maquoketa, Iowa, with initial lift-off beginning at 2 p.m. The plane first hit cloud cover in Indiana near the Ohio border when it dropped down from 10,000 feet to near 3,000 feet about an hour before crashing in a field southwest of the intersection of Sand Point and Tudor roads near Gomer.
Tracking data also shows the plane flew in tight circles and weaved back and forth while in the clouds before hitting some of the heavier rainfall. Course corrections through the cloud cover began at 3:55 p.m. with the plane climbing above 3,000 feet. It’s final report went out at 4:12 p.m.
The plane had been in the air for roughly two hours and 15 minutes.
Troopers responded to the crash at 4:42 p.m.
Purchased by the Niemann family just this past April, the plane had been involved with four flights under new ownership before crashing, according to Flightaware.com.
Identities of the two individuals who died in the crash have yet to be reported by the Ohio State Highway Patrol as they work to notify next of kin. At least three members of the Niemann family had pilot licenses. None had certification to deal with low-lying cloud cover.
This past week, the FAA tracked 63 aircraft accidents or incidents in the United States mostly involving small single-engine aircraft. Five of those accidents, including the accident in Allen County, resulted in fatalities.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.