The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 9, 2012

Pilot shops while rescue workers look for him

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

SHEFFIELD TOWNSHIP —  A report of a plane crash south of Plymouth Ridge Road late Friday morning back fired.

Kingsville firefighters were dispatched to the Gageville Country Store at the corner of Route 193 and Gageville-Monroe Road shortly before 11:30 a.m. A woman who lives about 1.5 miles east of Route 193 reported hearing the roar of an airplane over her house and then what sounded like an explosion. Another caller, to the west of Route 193, reported hearing an aircraft flying very low over her home at Plymouth-Brown and Carson roads.

“It sounded like it was right on top of my house. I said ‘Holy ---! What the --- is that?’” she said.

Kingsville firefighters drove around the neighborhood east of Route 193 in search of debris or a fire. They were assisted by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department.

When Sheffield Volunteer Fire Department’s President Bob Smith heard the report, he became a little suspicious. Smith knew that there was a private airfield off Gageville-Monroe Road, and he called the cell phone of the pilot who flies out of there.

Smith’s hunch was on the money. The pilot, Jim Victor, and his father had taken their Pitts S-2B biplane up that morning. After doing some high-altitude acrobatics, they re-fueled at the Northeast Ohio Regional Airport in Denmark Township and landed about the time the “crash” was heard. Victor then drove to Home Depot in Ashtabula Township, which was where he was when Smith called.

Victor stopped at the staging area on his way back from the store and told a Highway Patrol Trooper that he had used a different approach, from the north, than what he normally uses because of wind conditions. Further, he usually flies in the evening, so the neighbors would not have been accustomed to hearing his aircraft at that time of the day.

He said that the engine of the airplane might have back fired or made a racket as he pulled back for the landing.

“It’s not uncommon for that engine to crackle and pop a little,” he said.

The description of the red, white and blue plane matched that provided by the caller, and the Highway Patrol and Kingsville firefighters called off the search.

Victor said his aircraft was flying at a safe altitude so he did not know what the caller to the west heard. He was certain of one thing, however.

“We’re done flying for today,” Victor said as he headed home.