BELMONT - Maggie James had just finished raking her lawn Friday evening when she heard a loud motor overhead, the first sign that a pilot was in trouble.
She lifted her gaze and spotted a small, bright-yellow plane in the sky above. She said as soon as she looked up, she heard the aircraft's motor "take off." She watched helplessly as the plane nose-dived a few streets away from her home, claiming the life of the male pilot.
"It made the most God-awful sound when it hit," James said. "I never thought such a small plane could make such a noise when it hit."
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
Fire and law enforcement officials inspect the scene of a plane crash that claimed the life of the pilot Friday. The single-engine craft went down on a lawn just a few feet from this Belmont home.
Although she had not witnessed the single-engine plane striking the ground, she ran to get her neighbors, who are paramedics with the Belmont Volunteer Fire Department. They and other members quickly made their way to the scene at 42521 Bina Road, just yards outside the village corporation limit.
Kenny and Karla Perkins heard the loud "boom" as the plane plummeted into their yard. It came to rest about 12-15 feet from their home, somehow missing the surrounding utility lines and numerous large trees as well as the family's vehicles that were parked nearby.
The Perkins family and several of their neighbors rushed outside upon hearing the crash about 7 p.m., but they quickly discovered there was nothing they could do to help the man aboard the aircraft.
Debris from the plane was scattered across the Perkins' lawn and onto the adjacent highway, Ohio 149, which was soon closed to traffic. The force of the impact blew pieces of turf from the their lawn onto the roadway and up onto the roof of their home.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol headed up the investigation of the deadly incident with assistance from Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson and several deputies, as well as the county coroner's office. Patrol Lt. Jeff Laroche was in charge of the scene.
"We don't know who he is or where he came from," Laroche said.
Patrol Sgt. Jason Greenwood said later the man is in his 60s and is from Illinois, but he still had not been officially identified.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration website, the plane, under number N8060J, is registered to Wings of Hope in Chesterfield, Mo.
LaRoche noted the patrol was awaiting word on whether the FAA would send investigators to the site. In the meantime, law enforcement was simply making sure the scene was secure.
He said it appeared the plane was traveling south to north, since much of the debris was lying to the north of the craft. He noted evidence indicated it had come "straight down," since it had not skidded across the lawn. He also said witnesses reported the plane's motor was still running after it was on the ground.
Law enforcement called representatives of Alderman Airport near St. Clairsville to come to the scene to help identify the craft.
Staff Writer Casey Junkins contributed to this report.