Roanoke, VA Light Plane Crashes, Mar 1983


Roanoke (AP) -- Lisa Boone, who lives near the site where a light plane crashed and killed its five occupants, says horses graze in the field and, at first, she thought a truck had hit one of the horses.
"I heard two loud noises," she said Sunday. "I don't know how to describe them. It sounded like it had hit trees. We looked down the road and didn't see anything, though ... It was 15 minutes before anybody got here, and then everybody was here, crowding in the road."
The six-seat, twin-engined Piper Seneca narrowly missed a residential area and a busy highway before it crashed about noon barely a mile from Roanoke's Woodrum Airport, state police said.
State Trooper K. W. Necessary, Jr., identified the victims as:
DONALD W. HIGGINBOTHAM, 52, the pilot.
Their daughter, KIMBERLY ANN HIGGINBOTHAM, 11, all of Elma, N.Y.
RUTH BEEBE, 53, of Painesville, Ohio.
LORAL BEEBE, 13, of Painesville, Ohio.
Police were not sure of the relationship of the Beebes.
The plane apparently left Painesville, a small city near Lake Erie, earlier Sunday, but state police were not certain Sunday night that was the plane's original point of departure.
A flight plan listed Greensboro, N.C., as the plane's destination, but a change had been made and the pilot was preparing to land at Woodrum Field at the time of the crash.
It was raining and there was light fog on the ground at the time. The pilot, who was making an instrument approach, missed the airport on the first landing attempt and was making a second try when the plane crashed.
Witnesses told state police the plane was flying only 75 to 100 feet above the ground when it banked to the right, lost altitude, clipped some trees at the edge of the field and crashed into a hill.
The field, beside Florist Road in Roanoke County, is about 100 yards from busy Williamson Road. Necessary said the plane might have crashed on Williamson Road if it had been 60 to 100 feet higher. He said the plane had flown over a densly populated subdivision seconds before it crashed.
James Jennings, a supervisor at the control tower at Woodrum Field, said the plane was in radio contact with the tower before it crashed and the pilot gave no indication of trouble.
There was no fire after the crash, leading some workers at the scene to speculate the plane ran out of fuel. But Necessary said some fuel was in the plane's tanks.
Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials planned to examine the wreckage today to try to determine the cause of the crash.
Civil Air Patrol members and state police guarded the crash site overnight.
The field off Roanoke County's Florist Road where the plane crashed was the site of a trailer park several years ago.
"If those trailers had still been there, it would have hit at least three of them," said a county deputy, pointing to the jagged metal wreckage on several of the concrete mobile home bases that remain in the field.

Winchester Star Virginia 1983-03-28