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Plane Crash Kills Beloved Executive and Fiancée

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Cleveland, OHIt's a point we've made before; plane crashes appear to be happening at alarming frequency. Yesterday, this writer searched 'plane crash' for an assignment and up popped a small plane that crashed into the side of a mountain. I was going to write about that airplane crash this morning, but thought I would search the subject again.

Plane CrashSure enough, there's a new one.

Whether it's a light plane carrying a few passengers, a larger plane like the Airbus that went down into the ocean a few weeks ago taking a handful of aviation officials with it, or medical helicopters that seem to be crashing alot, the question remains: are they falling from the sky more than ever? Or is it that we're just hearing about them more? Perhaps a bit of both.

Yesterday the lone occupant of a single-engine Cessna 206 was killed when his plane plowed into a mobile home in northwest Michigan. According to aviation officials the small plane had taken off from St. Paul, Minnesota and was believed to have been enroute to Glens Falls, New York when the crash occurred.

Contact with the plane was lost at 2:20 pm yesterday. Shortly afterwards two residents of a mobile home 18 miles south of Traverse City in rural Kalkaska County reported seeing a small plane twice circle their home, before clipping some pine trees and actually striking the edge of their home before coming to rest near a pole barn.

The occupants of the home, Scott Sanford and Justin Rider, had just exited the structure about 10 minutes prior to shovel snow, when the plane crash occurred. They told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that part of the plane's wing remained lodged in the side of their mobile home.

The pilot was killed, and was not identified pending notification of next of kin, and an autopsy.

This past Wednesday an insurance company executive and his fiancée were killed when a twin-engine plane they had chartered slammed into the side of a mountain in dense fog. The pilot was also killed.

Kent W. Clapp, 62, CEO of Medical Mutual in Cleveland, had been vacationing in the British Virgin Islands with fiancée Tracy Turner. The couple had been preparing to come home aboard a scheduled Continental Airlines flight bound for San Juan, but somehow missed the flight.

The Avon Lake, Cleveland couple instead chartered a twin-engine Rockwell International 690B in an effort to make a connecting flight from San Juan to Newark, New Jersey. From there, the vacationers would fly back to Cleveland.

They never made it. The plane, flying in dense fog, slammed into the side of a mountain in the El Yunque rainforest, about 13 miles east of San Juan.

The initial investigation suggests no evidence of engine failure. However, service records will be examined, as well as the experience and background of the pilot, who was also killed. The pilot was identified as Ken Webster, the owner of Websta's Aviation Services Inc. located in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. While Webster owned the aviation service, it has been reported that he did not own the plane. The owner of the plane, who was not identified in the report, confirmed that Clapp and Turner were the only two passengers, besides the pilot.

The crash was apparently so violent, that the bodies of Clapp and Turner could not be immediately identified.

Investigators hoped to have a preliminary report in about a week, with a full vetting of the plane crash in about nine months.

Clapp was a veteran of the Vietnam war, who joined Cleveland-based Medical Mutual in 1976, becoming its president in 1992. He was named Chairman, and CEO in 1997. Medical Mutual was, at one time part of the Blue Cross System, and was troubled when Clapp took the reigns. He turned it around, and today Medical Mutual has 2,800 employees.

It has been reported that Kent Clapp was adored by his employees, and his loss will be a huge blow to the company. Medical Mutual is in shock.

Plane crashes happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes an airplane crash is caused by weather, mechanical error, or pilot error. Did the plane encounter dense fog suddenly? Or did the plane lift off in the midst of inclement weather? Was the pilot overly cavalier, and throw caution to the wind? Or did the passengers, in an obvious hurry, implore the pilot to take a chance?

There will be many eyes waiting for the substance of the investigative report on this plane crash—and, depending on the outcome, the potential for litigation.


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