Fatal Occurrence 2010O0821
Pilot killed in airplane crash in Courtland -- Cause of crash remains unknown
COURTLAND — A single-engine airplane that crashed here Thursday night, narrowly missing two houses and killing the pilot in the process, made unusually loud noises before it plunged to earth, witnesses say.
"It really caught my eye because it was really making noise," said Dale Hotchkiss, who saw the plane from her driveway shortly before it went down on the other side of the village.
"It wasn't very high up. It was buzzing across the sky and that was it. It was just noisy."
Killed in the crash is John Hart, 56, of Port Dover. Hart was a tech/communications teacher at Cayuga Secondary School.
Investigators were on the scene Friday looking for clues as to why the aircraft, a homemade, two-seater powered by a car engine, crashed.
It landed nosedown in a sideyard between two houses — one metre from the garage of one home and about seven metres from the house on the other side. Thirty metres to the south is Highway 3, a busy two-lane road.
The plane laid crumpled and flipped upside down, a hole in front of it where its nose had hit the ground.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is still investigating.
"It is still ongoing and we haven't come up with a cause yet," said Peter Rowntree, investigator with the transportation safety board, said Monday. A full investigation may not be required unless investigators discover systemic issues, such as a mechanical problem that lies in the specific model of aircraft, he added.
Neighbour Lois Schram, whose house is 20m from the crash, said she and her husband had just returned home around 7:45 pm. when they heard a "bang" and felt "vibrations" in their home.
Moments earlier, the couple "heard a plane fly in, which they do all the time (because an airfield is nearby)," said Schram. At first, they "didn't think anything of it," but then noticed the plane "sounded loud," she said
After the bang, Schram said she ran to her back door, saw the wreckage, and called 911.
Hart was president of the Tillsonburg Flying Club, which uses an airstrip not far from the crash scene.
Fellow club member Dave Gomori described Hart as "a good club member" who rose to president in just three years after joining the group.
Gomori said fellow club members reported the plane "went straight down."
Hydro and telephone lines a few metres from the crash meanwhile were undamaged.
The crash is the second fatal plane crash in Courtland in less than a year. In August, Alvin Foster died after his plane went into a cornfield south of here.
— With files from Barbara Simpson