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Multiple aircraft crashes claim two lives

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J. Hoskins

The Ellis County Press


MIDLOTHIAN-   Local, state and federal officials are investigating two separate fatal aircraft accidents this week in the Midlothian area.  The first occurred Wednesday afternoon, with the second occurring Thursday morning.


The first accident involved seasoned glider Richard H. “Dick” Johnson, 84, of Dallas, who many said was “the best glider pilot to ever sit in a cockpit”.  Johnson was killed in an accident two miles southeast of the Texas Soaring Association Airport near Campbell Road, in the Maypearl area.


TSA members lost contact with the pilot, and initiated an aerial search.   Emergency workers were notified and responded to the scene at about 1:15 p.m.  The search for the wreckage was hindered by the terrain, according to officials with the Department of Public Safety.  The wreckage was found upright, lodged between trees, with a wing having been ripped from the aircraft.


According to reports from officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Public Safety, the aircraft involved was a 27-year-old Ventus A Model “sailplane”, manufactured by Schempp-hirth K G.  


Multiple witnesses report that the aircraft dove straight into the ground, gathering speed before the impact occurred.     A glider or “sailplane” relies on updrafts and currents to keep the plane airborne.  A glider has no motorized engine as a backup to maintain flight.

The Texas Soaring Association Airport allows flying from their location for TSA members on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday according to their website.


A cause for the crash has not been identified as of Friday evening, according to state and federal officials.  


An autopsy was ordered for the deceased pilot.  Funeral services are pending, according to TSA’s website.


The second fatal accident occurred Thursday just after 9:00 a.m. on TXI property located in the 200 block of Ward Street in Midlothian.  Emergency workers were dispatched at about 9:03 a.m., according to the Midlothian Fire Department.


This crash involved a single rear engine Cozy Classic experimental plane, piloted by off-duty American Airlines pilot James John Marshall, 58, of Grapevine. 


Marshall was killed instantly as a result of multiple blunt force trauma, according to Justice of the Peace Jackie Miller. Marshall was pronounced dead at 10:17 a.m.  An autopsy was ordered in Dallas.


TXI employees reported that the plane was flying low over a quarry, striking a berm near the bottom, ascending in altitude, and then hitting the side of the quarry, crashing. Upon impact the airplane broke into pieces scattered over a large area spanning some 800 yards.  


No possible cause for the crash has been identified at this time.


The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating both accidents. 


Preliminary reports and causes for each crash will be issued in the coming weeks, with a final report on each crash due within the next year or so by the NTSB and FAA.   

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