FREMONT, Ohio – A small plane crashed Sunday afternoon in a residential area and killed all six people aboard, including the pilot, a former state lawmaker who had offered joyrides to airport visitors after a charity breakfast.
Gene Damschroder Sr., 86, was flying the fixed-wing, single-engine Cessna when it crashed about 1 p.m., the Ohio State Highway Patrol said. His five passengers also died in the crash in Sandusky County.
“It was just kind of an accident. He was giving airplane rides. He always gives charity air rides,” said Damschroder’s son, Rex Damschroder, who was not at the airport when the plane crashed.
“Someone said they heard the engine sputter,” he said. “The next thing we knew they were down in a field in a residential area.”
No one on the ground was injured, and no buildings were damaged, patrol Lt. Tony Bradshaw said. It was too early to tell what caused the crash. The National Weather Service said there was no severe weather in the area at the time.
The Lions Club of Fremont on Sunday held a fly-in breakfast, inviting nearby pilots to fly to Fremont Airport and display their planes.
After the event, Damschroder offered visitors a chance to go up in planes for the cost of fuel, according to a poster at the airport. The joyrides were not related to the Lions Club event.
Authorities could not confirm that those on board had taken Damschroder up on his offer. Also killed were Bill Ansted, 62; Allison Ansted, 23; Danielle Gerwin, 31; Emily Gerwin, 4; and Matt Clearman, 25.
Federal investigators were en route to the crash site, Bradshaw said.
Damschroder served in the state House from 1973 to 1983 as a Republican. Rex Damschroder held the same seat from 1995 to 2003.
“He’s been flying since World War II. He’s been flying for 60 years,” Rex Damschroder said. “He’s been instructing daily. … Flying was his life.”
Gene Damschroder was a World War II pilot who bought his Cessna four decades ago. Federal records indicate he was a certified flight instructor and licensed to fly both single- and multi-engine planes.
“He’s flown enough; this is puzzling,” his son said.