Answers still sought in plane crash that claimed 4 with N. Fla. ties


Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 11:52 a.m.

NEW RUSSIA TOWNSHIP, Ohio - The National Transportation Safety Board released the factual report detailing the events surrounding the January 2010 plane crash that killed a Vermillion, Ohio, couple and two pilots from North Florida.

However, the cause of the Ohio crash is still being investigated.

The report outlines what damage the twin-engine Mitsubishi plane sustained when it crashed into the ground at the Lorain County Regional Airport, instantly killing the four on board. They were pilot Wesley Roemer, 30, of Keystone Heights, John Mengelson, 46, of Florahome, chief mechanic and co-pilot, and Donald A. Brown, 89, and his wife, Shirley, 87, the parents of Kenneth Brown, the owner of Kenn Air in Gainesville. The couple had been returning home from Gainesville when the crash occurred.

The NTSB report also includes the inspection of the scene, witness reports and autopsy findings.

The report does not have any information as to what caused the crash, such as pilot error and/or weather conditions. The plane was coming from Gainesville, Fla., where the Browns had spent time visiting family.

On Jan. 18, 2010, the Mitsubishi MU-2B-60 twin-engine plane was flying to the airport at 2:05 p.m. An air traffic controller cleared the flight for landing on Runway 7, the report stated. The air traffic controller told the pilots to make an inbound course for the runway, but also stated, "I didn't adjust for the wind there," the report stated.

As the plane was coming down for the landing, the landing flaps were only at 5 degrees of flaps, the report stated.

Kenneth Brown, the plane's owner and son of Don and Shirley Brown, told investigators it was a "mystery to me" why the flaps were only at 5 degrees when Roemer, who was piloting, normally lands using 20 degrees of flaps.

A witness, who was waiting at the airport for the plane to arrive, told investigators the plane was in a nose-low altitude, rolling to the right into a steep right turn and the report noted the witness initially stated the plane might have been in a left turn. The wings were at a 90 degree angle to the ground and was "definitely out of control," the report stated.

The plane crashed at the west end of the airport property in a field, according to the report, and the equipment on board seemed to be functioning properly, although it was hard to tell because of damage.

Jim Silliman, inspector for the NTSB, declined comment on specifics yesterday, but did say the cause of the crash could be released in two to three months. The decision to release the cause of the crash comes from the NTSB board, he said.

The Browns' estate is being handled in Erie County Probate Court.

D. Broman of Comerica Bank, of Detroit, is fiduciary, according to court records.

Erie County Probate Judge Beverly K. McGookey also approved letters of authority appointing attorney Thomas Cawley as executor of the state. The letters of authority grant Cawley authority to file legal documents on behalf of the estate, according to court records. Late last year, Cawley requested to administer the estate and the judge ruled on the issue last month, according to court records.

THE PLANE

The Mitsubishi plane had the annual maintenance inspection on April 3, 2009, the report stated. The airplane had been flown 90 hours since the last inspection and had 6,799 hours logged in total.

The airplane complied with inspections and required a de-ice monitoring system, an automatic autopilot disconnect system and a trim-in-motion alert system, which is a system that helps reduce pilot force to hold a desired position.

The requirements were intended to assist the flight and prevent problems while operating in icing conditions, the report states.

The servo systems, which are essentially the plane's autopilot systems, had been replaced on Sept. 23, 2009, and the report also states the autopilot was not used during the landing.

THE WEATHER CONDITIONS

At the time of the crash, the plane would have had 2 miles of visibility to the ground, the report states. There was a slight mist and the sky was overcast at 500 feet.

Numerous pilots in the area told investigators there was an extensive overcast layer of clouds as they flew, the report stated. There were 12 reports of light mixed icing and four reports of moderate icing.

A Cessna Citation XL plane landed 10 to 15 minutes before the plane crash, according to the report. The pilot from that plane told investigators he had a 3-mile visibility from the ground - which is the minimum visibility standards through the Federal Aviation Administration - and he remained clear of clouds during the circle to land.

The plane's de-icing equipment was operational and when he got to ground, he observed about 1/8 inch of ice on the nose of the plane.

THE DAMAGE

The plane crashed into the ground roughly 2,150 feet west of the runway it was headed for, the report states. The wreckage path was 194 feet long.

The wings and landing gear separated from the fuselage of the plane and the cockpit cabin separated from the rest of the fuselage during the impact. The cockpit and fuselage were 143 to 170 feet away from where the plane initially crashed.

The flight control cables were not severed and there was no fire when the plane hit the ground.

A crater 6-feet wide, 7-feet long and 18 to 24 inches deep was left in the ground when the plane crashed, the report states. The right propeller and right wing flap were located near the crater.

The left engine was found 123 feet from the wreckage, with the propeller still attached but with two blades missing - the other two were located in the field.

Each of the devices from the plane sustained damage, the report states, but the de-icing equipment was still functional when inspectors pushed power through it, according to the report.

THE PILOTS

Wesley Roemer, 30, had a license for single-engine planes, multi-engine planes, land airplanes and helicopters, according to the report. He was also a certified flight instructor with a license issued in 2007.

Even though Roemer's flight logbook was not obtained during the investigation, investigators wrote Roemer had logged 2,010 flight hours as of April 2009. He had several hundred hours logged in for a variety of aircraft as well.

Roemer also attended several training sessions a year and Kenneth Brown told investigators he was a "competent pilot and was qualified to fly to MU-2 single pilot."

Kenneth Brown and Roemer often flew together, and they worked together for 13 years.

Kenneth Brown told officials Mengelson was not performing the duties of a co-pilot during the flight. Mengelson and Roemer often flew together, according to the report.

The autopsies of Roemer and Mengelson were finished on Jan. 20, 2010, by the Cuyahoga County Coroner' Office, according to the report. The cause of death for both was blunt force trauma to the head, neck, trunk and extremities with several interior injuries. The toxicology reports showed neither men had any drugs or alcohol in their systems at the time of the crash.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top