(Photo: Ty Greenlees, Dayton Daily News, via AP)
Alan Gomez, USA TODAY
Ohio officials say two people were killed when a plane carrying a wing walker crashed and burst into flames at a Dayton-area air show.
Dayton International Airport spokeswoman Linda Hughes and Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston told the Associated Press that two people died in the crash Saturday afternoon. Their identities were being withheld until family members were notified.
"It's part of what they do for a living," said Michael Emoff, chairman of the volunteer board that organized the 39th annual Vectron Dayton Air Show. "They know the risks. They do this because they love it. But it's devastating."
Emoff said no spectators were injured in the crash.
A video posted on WHIO-TV shows a wing walker hanging by the legs from the bottom of a wing. The plane turns upside down, leaving the acrobat sitting on the bottom of the wing as it flies inverted and close to the ground. The plans starts tilting before slamming into the ground as spectators scream.
The schedule for the air show listed only one wing walker scheduled to perform: Jane Wicker. Her website chronicles a 25-year love of flying that led her to move into the world of wing walking. After being certified as a pilot, she started looking for more of a thrill and started performing outside the cockpit.
"I actually start off in the cockpit, and I walk along the wing of an airplane - no safety line, no tether, no harness, no parachute," she told WDTN on Friday before the show got underway. "I get concerned when certain things are thrown at me that I'm not ready for (like bad weather). Those things concern me, but I'm never nervous or scared because I know if I do everything as I usually do, everything's going to be just fine."
Her website also says that she performs the difficult move of sitting on the bottom of the wing as the plane flies inverted.
Federal records show that biplane was registered to Wicker, who lived in Loudon, Va. A man who answered the phone at a number listed for Wicker on her website said he had no comment and hung up.
One of the pilots listed on Wicker's website was named Charlie Schwenker. A post on Jane Wicker Airshows' Facebook page announced the deaths of Wicker and Schwenker and asked for prayers for their families.
A message left at a phone listing for Charles Schwenker in Oakton, Va., wasn't immediately returned.
Ian Hoyt, an aviation photographer and licensed pilot from Findlay, was at the show with his girlfriend. He told The Associated Press he was taking photos as the plane passed by and had just raised his camera to take another shot.
"Then I realized they were too low and too slow. And before I knew it, they hit the ground," he said.
He couldn't tell exactly what happened, but it appeared that the plane stalled and didn't have enough air speed, he said. He credited the pilot for steering clear of spectators and potentially saving lives.
"Had he drifted more, I don't know what would have happened," Hoyt said. He said he had been excited to see the show because he'd never seen the scheduled performer - wing walker Jane Wicker - in action.
Isaac Hale, a photographer for the Piqua Daily Call newspaper and a student at Ohio University, was attending his first air show.
"There were children in the crowd and after the crash the announcer said if you have children please turn them away from the scene," Hale told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Spectator Shawn Warwick told the Dayton Daily News that he was watching through binoculars when the plane started flying inverted and "really close to the ground."
"She was sitting on the bottom of the plane," Warwick said. "I saw it just go right into the ground and explode."
Emoff said Saturday's crash was the second time an acrobat died at the Dayton show. In 2007, stunt pilot Jim LeRoy was killed when his biplane crashed into the runway and caught fire.
Federal budget cuts led to a scaled-down show this year after the Air Force Thunderbirds and other military aircraft had to cancel. Emoff said they usually get more than 70,000 people attending the event, pumping more than $3 million into the local economy, but he was expecting much smaller crowds this weekend.
He said all flying was canceled for the rest of the day Saturday, but that planes would be back in the air for the show's finale on Sunday.
Contributing: The Associated Press