Topeka, KS Private Plane Crash, Aug 2003


Topeka (AP) - Investigators could find no immediate cause for a plane crash that killed the commander of the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard and injured his wife and daughter.
COL. MIKE O'TOOLE, 51, had just taken off from a private airstrip near the family's neighborhood when the single-engine Cessna 182 went down in a wooded area in northeast Shawnee County according to the Kansas Highway Patrol and a neighbor who witnessed the crash about 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The neighbor, Mike Kozubek, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that he had helped the family load their luggage and that he didn't see anything wrong with the plane before it crashed near the Buena Terra airstrip.
"I watched him take off because he took off from my hangar," Kozubek told the newspaper. "I watched them take off. Then I saw him clear the lines. Then I saw the plane go down."
Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Engholm said the plane's right wing was ripped from the fuselage and that there was other severe damage but no fire.
"We don't have any cause for the crash at this point," Engholm said, adding that the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
O'TOOLE'S wife, PAM, 50, was taken to Stormont-Vail Health Center in Topeka where officials said she was in fair condition. Their daughter, SHANNON O'TOOLE, 25, was flown to KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., where officials refused to release details.
The family had been heading for Pittsburg to visit PAM O'TOOLE'S brother, according to Joy Moser, spokeswoman for the Kansas National Guard.
MIKE O'TOOLE had been commander of the 900-member 190th Air Refueling Wing since July 14, 2002. Colleagues said he was an accomplished pilot with more than 6,900 flight hours logged in military aircraft.
"A light in the world went out today," said an emotional Maj. Gen. Greg Gardner, the state's adjutant general. "MIKE O'TOOLE was an airman's airman, a true professional who was universally loved and respected."
Gov. Kathleen Sebellus ordered flags lowered to half-staff at state buildings on Monday. She praised O'TOOLE as a dedicated officer, family man and friend.

Hays Daily News Kansas 2003-08-10