Thursday, July 9, 2009

Three die in plane crash

SHELDON—Three Wisconsin men en route to a South Dakota hunting expedition were killed Tuesday in a plane crash near 310th Street between Sheldon and Sanborn.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration continue to investigate the crash that killed Frank Allegretti, 64, of Cambridge, Tom Boos, 60, of Fort Atkinson and Malcolm McMillan, 65, of Milton.

According to information released by the FAA, Allegretti, Boos and McMillan were flying in a 1968 Piper PA-28 single-engine airplane, co-owned by McMillan, to a prairie dog hunting excursion in Winner, SD, when the aircraft crashed into an embankment along gravel road 310th Street between Oriole and Pierce avenues about four miles east of Sheldon at about 11 a.m.

O’Brien County chief deputy Allen Schuknecht said authorities arrived on the scene shortly after they received a 911 call at 11:01 a.m. Assisting the O’Brien County Sheriff’s Department were the Sanborn Police Department, Sanborn Ambulance, Sanborn Fire and Rescue, Sheldon Community Ambulance Team, Iowa State Patrol and O’Brien County Emergency Management.

Sanborn Fire and Rescue members used the Jaws of Life to gain entry to the fuselage and removed Allegretti, Boos and McMillan.

O’Brien County medical examiner Sara Zoelle pronounced them dead at the scene. Each were transported to Sanford Sheldon Medical Center.

Authorities are referring all public questions to NTSB senior air safety investigator Aaron Sauer; however, he has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him.

Sauer has told other media that the refurbished red and white four-seater departed from Fort Atkinson Municipal Airport on Tuesday at an unknown time.

He said no flight plan was filed, although a hand-held global positioning system was found on board and may help investigators determine the flight’s history, including what led the aircraft to crash, coming to rest in an inverted position.

Sauer said there was no indication of a fuel problem, but investigators still are trying to determine the men’s route to see if they had stopped for fuel.

Investigators found skid marks on the cornfield north of 310th Street heading in a southward direction. Measurements taken at the accident site indicate a distance of 100 feet between initial contact with the cornfield and the 180-horsepower Lycoming engine’s resting point.

Mike Buss, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service station in Sioux Falls, SD, said thunderstorms rolled in the area during late morning, with 0.23 inch of rain falling and up to 45 mph wind gusts. Despite the conditions, authorities have been hesitant to speculate on a cause.

About 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dan McDonald, president of McDonald Roofing Co. of Sanborn was approached by the O’Brien County Sheriff’s Department to use his crane to remove the plane from the ditch.

McDonald’s team spent about an hour and a half setting the plane upright on 310th Street so investigators could better examine the wreckage.

The NTSB offered McDonald payment for his service, but he declined.

For much of Tuesday and Wednesday, Iowa State Patrol troopers took the responsibility to monitor and preserve the site until the plane was removed by a recovery facility from Minnesota.

Sauer said investigators are looking into the aircraft’s maintenance history, as well as the pilots’ training and experience. Autopsies will be performed on all three victims at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Ankeny. A toxicology test also will be conducted by the FAA.

Sauer estimates the NTSB’s preliminary crash report will be available within a week. A detailed factual report on the crash will be released three to six months later.

McMillian, who served as co-chair of flight safety for the annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s fly-in and convention in Oshkosh, WI, and Allegretti each had private pilot’s licenses.

Although Boos did not have a license, he flew ultralight planes in which a pilot’s license is not required.

Name: Piper Model PA-28
Built: 1968
Engine: 180-horsepower Lycoming engine
Height: 7 feet, 3 inches
Length: 23 feet, 5 inches
Wingspan: 30 foot
Maximum speed: 148 mph
Maximum weight: 2,450 pounds
Range: 507 miles
Registration number: N7795N
Details: Fixed wing, single-engine plane with four seats
Owners: Jerome Goodger of Milton, WI, is listed as the registered owner. Malcom McMillan of Milton, WI, is listed as another owner

This article appeared in the June 27, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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