Hilton Head Island, SC Private Planes Collide, Nov 1980


Hilton Head Island, S.C. (UPI) - An Ohio family of four flying home from a holiday visit and a student pilot collided in clear skies over a resort inn, dumping a twisted mass of bodies and aircraft near crowded tennis courts.
All five people aboard the planes were killed, but no one on the ground was injured.
Authorities said the wings of the single-engine Piper Cherokee and the Champion Aeronca clipped each other minutes after takeoff Sunday morning from Hilton Head, a posh resort community between Charleston
and Savannah, Ga.
Wreckage from the planes scattered about a quarter mile apart on the north end of the 10-mile-long barrier island. Debris from the Aeronca narrowly missed tennis courts crowded with vacationers at the Port Royal Plantation, a resort inn.
A security guard at the adjacent Island Club, Edna Rhodes, said, "I
looked up and I said, 'Tht plane is going to crash. Oh my God, it's going to crash!' and we saw it whirling around, going down."
DAVID GIRIMONT, 28, of Hilton Head, a student pilot and one-third owner of the Aeronca, was pulled alive from the wreckage, but died at a hospital later. He was alone in the aircraft, authorities said.
The engine of the other plane was found embedded in a paved, two-lane
road near the home of a woman who said the crash "sounded like two cars colliding." She described the scene as "absolutely, incredible destruction."
"The plane was smoking but not on fire," another witness, Bill Colborn, said. "There were no discernible bodies - everything was arms and legs."
Authorities said they recovered four bodies from the charred,tangled wreckage of the Cherokee. The dead were identified as TOMMY B. REYNOLDS, 39, of Painesville Township, Ohio; his wife, KAY, 40; their son, HOWARD, 11, and their adopted daughter, KATHERINE, 17.
REYNOLDS was the pilot.
The death toll was at first placed at seven, but authorities later learned that two people who were supposed to have been aboard one of the planes - REYNOLDS' sister, Katie, 35, and her boyfriend, John Messano - had driven instead to their Arlington, Va., homes.
"We found what we thought were parts of five bodies," said Beaufort County Deputy Coroner Roy Fyfe. He said when officials were unable to determine the exact number of people aboard the Cherokee, a pathologist was called in to examine the remains.
Atlanta FAA spokesman Vedder Steed said neither pilot filed a flight plan, but that REYNOLDS had asked for a report on the weather between Hilton Head Island and Ohio 45 minutes before he left.
Joe Viens, an official at Hilton Head Airport, said skies were sunny when the crash occurred about one minute after the Cherokee took off. He said the Aeronca had taken off eight minutes earlier.
Viens said he assumed REYNOLDS was heading north toward Ohio, and that he circled south after takeoff - "apparently just to take a look at the island."
He said the Cherokee had been on Hilton Head for three days.
The planes were headed towards each other when they collided, and Hilton Head Fire Chief Larry Gooding said the wreckage was
"mostly a collection of bits and pieces. The airplanes demolished on impact."
He said the Cherokee "apparently impacted just about vertically because the engine was embedded in the road."
Investigators from the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the cause of the accident.

Tyrone Daily Herald Pennsylvania 1980-12-01

Tyrone Daily Herald Pennsylvania