Witnesses: Cessna was flying low, banked to left just before crashing

FREMONT Federal investigators released a preliminary report Monday that summarizes the final moments
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

FREMONT

Federal investigators released a preliminary report Monday that summarizes the final moments of the plane crash that killed six people more than a week ago.

While witnesses said the plane seemed to have mechanical problems, the cause of the crash remains unclear.

Pilot Gene Damschroder, a former state legislator, flew the 1968 Cessna U206C as part of the Lions Club Fly-In Breakfast from Fremont Progress Airport. The breakfast was an annual event for at least the past 10 years.

Damschroder and five others, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed in the crash.

The report said it was the sixth flight of the day with each ride lasting 10-15 minutes. Damschroder was not operating on a flight plan.

Witnesses said that the airplane was flying low and heading toward the west/southwest when it "banked, descended and impacted" in a grassy field behind a house in Ballville Township.

One witness said the plane was flying very slow, almost on the edge of a stall. That same witness later said the engine sounded as if it was throttling up and then the plane appeared to stall with the left wing "dipping," the report shows.

The airplane then descended below the tree line.

The plane -- which carried Bill Ansted, his 23-year-old daughter Allison Ansted, her fiance Matt Clearman and mother-daughter pair Danielle Gerwin, 31, and Emily Gerwin, 4 -- exploded when it hit the ground.

NTSB investigator Mitch Gallo did not return calls seeking comment.

Family and friends will have to wait several months for a factual report that 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.