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The Daily



09-10-03: Pilot survives crash into Rockford field


ROCKFORD — A Berne, Ind., man remains under treatment today at a Lima hospital following a Tuesday afternoon plane crash in Dublin Township.
Charles N. Black, 42, 866 W. Clark St., was injured when the plane he was piloting apparently clipped electric lines along Shelley Road, west of U.S. 127, and crashed in a nearby field.
He sustained nonlife-threatening injuries, according to witnesses on the scene, and is reportedly in good condition at St. Rita’s Medical Center. Hospital officials could not confirm the reports due to privacy laws.
Black, the lone occupant of the 1958 Mooney M20A single-engine plane, was flying in a southwesterly direction with the landing gear down, according to Sgt. Tom Brookhart of the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Troopers believe Black was attempting to land the fixed-wing craft at a grassy airfield across from Deerfield Golf Course, 5621 Shelley Road. The plane nose-dived into a field and landed upside down, Brookhart added.
Jerry Now, who owns the plane as well as the golf course, reportedly rushed to the scene and pulled Black from the wreckage. Flames erupted within seconds of the rescue.
Troopers hope to speak with Black later today to determine when and where the flight originated. They also want to confirm reports Now is the pilot’s father-in-law.
Richard Moeller, 5469 Shelley Road, noticed the plane flying across the back side of his property shortly before 2:30 p.m.
“I thought at the time the plane was kind of low,” he said. “It was still under power but appeared to be coasting.”
Moeller heard no loud noise but noticed a disruption of electrical service to his home, located approximately 400 feet west of the crash site. He first spotted electric lines drooping from polls in the front yard and then a trail of smoke rising skyward.
He quickly drove to the scene and was relieved to find three people tending to a man on the ground. Black reportedly was conscious and talking to rescuers.
“Fire pretty much consumed the plane except for the tail section,” Moeller added. “I went there hoping for the best but expecting the worst.”
Rockford and Mendon fire departments responded with sirens blaring. Firefighters and Mercer County Sheriff’s deputies saw smoke for a considerable distance while en route to the scene.
“The plane was a ball of fire when I arrived,” said Rockford Assistant Fire Chief Rob Belna. “The gas burned out of the tanks, but there was no explosion.”
Bright flashes appeared periodically as the plane burned, leaving only the tail section with the letters “NI” visible. Firefighters attributed the phenomena to magnesium in the tires.
“It’s a good thing the grass and weeds are so green,” Rockford Fire Chief Ralph Rhoades told The Daily Standard. “Otherwise, the fire would have moved across the entire field in no time.”
A matted area approximately 50 feet away indicated where the pilot had been treated before being transported to the Lima hospital by a Rockford unit of Mercer County Emergency Medical Services.
Wisps of smoke continued to rise from the wreckage at 4 p.m. Tuesday as Midwest Electric employees worked to restore power in the area. A sturdy electric cable could be seen wrapped around the charred wheel of the plane.
Employees at the golf course declined to comment on the crash. Now could not be reached and did not return a telephone message left at his home this morning.
Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration have arrived on the scene to assist with the investigation.
Brookhart said the last plane crash the post investigated occurred in August 2002 near St. Marys. Several occurred in 1999, including one on May 9 near Lakefield Airport in Montezuma that resulted in the deaths of the pilot and skydivers aboard the craft.


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