By Joshua Benton and Eddie B. Allen, Jr.
Blade Staff Writers
FINDLAY — Three men were killed yesterday when the plane they were flying in crashed moments after it took off from Findlay Municipal Airport.
Names of the victims were withheld, pending positive identification and notification of relatives.
But sources said one of the dead is feared to be Fred Kremer, Jr., the chairman of the Findlay-based manufacturing company Hancor, Inc., and president of the board of the United Way of Hancock County.
According to Hancock County sheriff’s deputies, the 1976 Beechcraft Bonanza A36 took off from the airport’s north-south runway just before 7 a.m.
Moments later, it came down about a mile away on State Rt. 15, which runs parallel to the runway, officials said.
The aircraft brushed the top of several trees, fell to the edge of Route 15, then slid across West ern Avenue, breaking through a gate that divides West ern and Route 15.
The plane came to rest about 20 feet into a wooded area east of Western.
No cars were struck, and no one on the ground was hurt.
Federal Aviation Administration officials from Columbus were investigating last night to try to determine what caused the six-seater, single-engine plane to crash.
All three bodies were burned be yond recognition, and officials will have to use dental records to make a positive identification, Hancock County coroner Leroy Schroeder said.
That will likely be completed by tomorrow or Tuesday.
Bob Hauzie, Hancor’s vice president for administration, confirmed that the crashed plane was owned by GF Aviation, a Findlay-based company owned by Mr. Kremer that shares a mailing address with Hancor.
He confirmed that Mr. Kremer was scheduled to fly out of the Findlay airport in that plane, GF Aviation’s only one, early yesterday morning.
The flight plans called for the plane to head to White Plains, N.Y., Mr. Hauzie said.
The three people scheduled to be on the plane were Mr. Kremer and two pilots, both employees of Rowmark, a plastic sheeting company owned by Mr. Kremer.
Mr. Hauzie would not release their names last night.
The fog that blanketed the Findlay area yesterday morning was at its thickest around flight time.
Visibility was down to a quarter of a mile at 7 a.m. and was under a mile from 4 to 11 a.m., according to Kerry Schwindenhammer, a fore caster for AccuWeather, Inc., a private forecasting service based in State College, Pa.
Vertical visibility was down to 100 feet.
The National Weather Service issued a dense fog advisory just after the crash, at 7:25 a.m.
The fog, which had been heavy throughout the night in Toledo, was drifting south toward Findlay around daybreak, meteorologist Jim Kosarik said.
Light winds – about 4 mph – allowed the fog to condense easily.
At the time of the accident, it was 32 degrees at the Findlay airport, with a 30-degree dew point, producing relative humidity of 93 per cent, Mr. Schwindenhammer said.
Mr. Kremer, in affiliation with New York-based Citicorp Venture Capital, bought Hancor from the Child family in 1986.
The company was founded in 1887 to manufacture brick but switched to drainage pipe production in the 1960s.
Mr. Kremer was brought into the company as a consultant to the Childs when they were searching for someone to take it over.
On Jan. 27, Mr. Kremer stepped down as president of the company, handing the reins to Dail Herman, who had been chief executive officer of AutoStyle Plastics, based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Mr. Kremer remained the company’s chairman.
He announced last week that the United Way’s fall campaign had raised nearly $2 million for area charities, setting a record for fund-raising.
Officials at the crash site said only that one of the three men killed was a Findlay resident, one lived elsewhere in northwest Ohio, and the third was from out of state.
“They were returning one to his home out of state” and planned to return to the airport yesterday, Hancock County Sheriff Michael Heldman said.
Liberty Township fire officials and emergency crews helped remove the bodies of the victims, which were sent to the Lucas County coroner’s office in Toledo for autopsies, Dr. Schroeder said.