Crash kills 3 with area ties
The wife of the co-pilot says she was told that all four on the flight died.
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 10:06 p.m.
Two area residents were flying home the parents of an Alachua County businessman on a plane that crashed Monday in Ohio, killing at least three of them.
The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the mid-sized turboprop plane was traveling from Gainesville when it crashed at 2:08 p.m. while approaching the runway at Lorain County Regional Airport in Elyria, Ohio.
Wesley Roemer of Keystone Heights was the pilot and John Mengelson of Florahome was chief mechanic and co-pilot in the plane for Gainesville-based Kenn Air, said Mengelson's wife, Melinda. She said they were flying home the parents of Kenn Air owner Kenneth Brown - Donald and Shirley Brown of Vermilion, Ohio.
While the FAA confirmed that three people died in the crash, Mengelson said she was told there were no survivors.
A person answering the phone at Kenn Air declined comment, and a phone call left for Brown was not immediately returned.
Mengelson said her husband had served 20 years in the Coast Guard before retiring. He was stationed in Clearwater most of his career before coming to work for Kenn Air, she said.
"He just loved what he did," she said. "Most people don't have the chance to have one dream job in their life and he had two."
Pilot and former Gainesville Mayor-Commissioner Mac McEachern said Brown's parents had been visiting for the holidays. He said he's friends with Brown and briefly spoke with him about the crash.
"Naturally, he's very upset," McEachern said.
He said Brown's father was a "wonderful guy to talk to" who was known for developing drop ceilings. Brown's mother was a "sweet lady," McEachern said.
Kenn Air was the fixed-base operator at Gainesville Regional Airport providing fuel and other services to general aviation aircraft until 1996. Brown now owns a private hangar at the airport but his company no longer has an official connection to the facility, according to airport CEO Allan Penksa.
McEachern said Brown is involved in several businesses including a goat-breeding operation at his Alachua County home. He said that Brown used the aircraft to travel to Austin, Texas, where he owned a development similar to Butler Plaza.
An FAA database shows that the fixed-wing, multi-engine MU-2B-60 turboprop plane was manufactured by Mitsubishi. New York-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America Inc. planned to be at the site today. The company released a statement to say its "thoughts and prayers are with the families of the pilot and passengers.
"This is the first fatal MU-2 accident in almost four years," the statement said.
The series was manufactured between 1967 and 1985, and the planes carry seven to 10 people and can also be used for cargo.
The National Transportation Safety Board will lead an investigation into the crash, according to the FAA.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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