Federal investigators comb crash site as family members deal with loss of loved ones

FREMONT "Both our angels flew away." This is what Charlie Gerwin told his s
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

 

FREMONT

"Both our angels flew away."

This is what Charlie Gerwin told his son after a fiery plane crash killed the 10-year-old boy's mother and 4-year-old sister.

Danielle, 31, and Emily Gerwin were two of six people in the Cessna 68 that sputtered then fell from the sky Sunday afternoon. Others killed in the crash include 86-year-old pilot Gene Damschroder, Bill Ansted, Bill's 23-year-old daughter Allison Ansted of Lindsey, and her fiance Matt Clearman of Maumee.

Charlie Gerwin said the airplane ride was a surprise for his daughter, who was fascinated by planes and thrilled just before the flight.

The Gibsonburg family attended the annual Fremont Lions Club Fly-In Breakfast, where short plane rides were offered for the cost of fuel.

''We had to not tell her that's where we were going (Sunday) just in case the line got too long or they weren't letting 4-year-olds on,'' Charlie Gerwin said.

Her father, brother, three grandparents and a great-grandmother all watched Emily climb onto the plane and wave back at them before the plane sped down the runway of Fremont Progress Airport.

"I saw them fly away," Charlie Gerwin said. "I just want to remember that."

Barbara Ansted, whose husband and daughter perished in the crash, said she plans to continue to run for Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge James Sherck's seat in the November election because it's what her husband wanted.

"If I give up, I think it would disappoint him," she said. "He was my hardest worker and biggest supporter. I don't think he'd want me to give up."

Family members of the plane crash victims will have to wait for answers.

Federal investigators continue to search for the cause of the crash. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board scoured the site Monday as they pieced together the final moments of a plane ride that led to tragedy in a grassy field next to a residential neighborhood.

What they do know is that just before 1 p.m. Sunday, Damschroder -- a former state representative and WWII navy pilot -- took off from the tiny airport he owns. He intended to share his nearly lifelong love of flying with his passengers.

Damschroder taught Bill Ansted how to fly and helped him get his pilot's license. His daughter was a sky diver. Clearman lived in Maumee and had graduated from the University of Michigan.

Damschroder was a farmer much of his life. His passion, though, was flying.

He built and operated the Fremont airport, opening it in 1963.

A Republican, he served in the Ohio House from 1973-83. He even campaigned in his plane, towing a sign with his name on it.

His son, Rex Damschroder, said his father still flew every day and was in good health. He doesn't think health or age played a role in the crash.

''Gene was the kind of guy who lived and breathed flying,'' said Ken Dumminger, an aerial photographer who worked with him for years. ''He wanted people to experience his avocation.''

Autopsies were performed Monday.

Witnesses to the crash told law enforcement officials the plane appeared to have engine problems and stalled out.

Lt. Brent Meredith of the Sandusky post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said it remains unclear whether the plane crashed because of pilot error or a mechanical malfunction.

The plane was fully loaded with fuel, Meredith said.

Weather also does not appear to be an issue, AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines said.

A NTSB spokesman said a preliminary report with details about the accident will be completed within a couple of days.

A factual report, released several months later, will provide details on the pilot, airplane and the environment. A final report could be completed in one year and will provide details on the probable cause of the accident and what measures should be taken to prevent a similar accident.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.