By Shelley Grieshop
The pilot and passenger of a Cessna plane that crashed near Rockford on Friday remain in serious condition this morning at hospitals in Michigan.
Joel D. Avore, 35, of Greenville, co-owner of the plane and the pilot of the 1967 single-engine aircraft, and his passenger, James A. Canders, 32, of Wyoming, Mich., were originally transported to local hospitals before being taken to Toledo and then two Michigan hospitals.
Avore is at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor; Canders is a patient at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
The crash occurred about 2:20 p.m., when the plane struck a mound of dirt on the James Baltzell property, about a half mile outside the Rockford village limits. The aircraft came down about 25 yards from the Baltzell's rural home where four family members inside escaped injury.
The plane struck electrical wires and a tree before crashing into the ground. The preliminary investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration does not yet list the cause of the accident, which may not be announced for several weeks, according to FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
Although the investigation is in its early stages, it appears the plane's flight pattern is under controversy, according to information received by The Daily Standard. FAA believes the plane left from Greencastle, Ind., and was en route to Battle Creek, Mich., "and for whatever reason crashed in Rockford, Ohio," Cory said.
However, Gene Miller, the owner of Phillispburg Aviation near Dayton, said Canders told him the plane was leaving from an airport in Battle Creek, Mich., and was slated to stop at the Phillipsburg airport to drop him off. Miller did not say when he last spoke to Canders.
"That passenger was coming here," Miller said.
The National Weather Service lists no climate-related problems for aircraft Friday afternoon. Skies were cloudy but visibility stretched 10 miles with southeasterly winds at 13 mph, the weather service reported.
Friday's plane accident was the third airplane crash in Mercer County in the last seven years, according to records from the FAA.
On Mother's Day in May of 1999, a pilot and five members of the Grand Lake Skydivers perished when a Cessna ran out of fuel shortly after take-off from Lakefield Airport in Montezuma.
In September 2003, a pilot of a single-engine aircraft survived when it crashed near Deerfield Golf Course near Rockford. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled the cause of that crash was an uncertified pilot and his failure to maintain proper altitude and clearance.
-- Daily Standard reporter William Kincaid contributed to this story.