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At Least 19 Die in Weekend Air Accidents

May 19, 1986 GMT

Undated (AP) _ Nineteen people died in weekend air accidents in five states, including six people killed when a small plane plowed into a field in Van Nuys, Calif., and two who died when their hot air balloon crashed southeast of Los Angeles.

Among those killed were a former soap opera actor, a director, and a doctor who certified the health of pilots for the Federal Aviation Administration, officials and friends said.

Seven people were injured in the accidents, in California, New Jersey, Georgia, Oregon and Indiana.

An off-duty police officer was killed in Atlantic City, N.J., when a twin- engine Cessna plowed across a six-lane highway and into his car. A passenger on the plane also died.

The plane’s pilot told police he tried unsuccessfully to take off Saturday on a charter flight to Farmingdale, N.Y., and crashed through a fence at the end of the runway, said police Detective Sgt. Steven Mangam.

The plane skidded across a field and the wide boulevard, becoming entangled with three or four cars before hitting a car waiting at a stop sign and setting it afire, he said. The plane came to rest against a building.

Several other cars and buildings caught fire but the flames were quickly extinguished.

In Angola, Ind., a twin-engine Seneca piloted by a Michigan doctor clipped a house Saturday and crashed into a ditch.

The pilot had radioed tower personnel in Fort Wayne that he was having mechanical problems with the aircraft and would try to land at an airport three miles west of Angola.

Authorities said the pilot pulled himself from the wreckage but died later died at a hospital.

In Van Nuys, a twin-engine Cessna carrying five men and a woman crashed Saturday in a field near the Sepulveda Dam Recreation area as it apparently attempted to land at the airport, said Audrey Schutte, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. She said investigators planned to review the tape of a conversation between the pilot and airport controllers.

The plane began wavering when about 150 feet above the ground, said witness Bill Schneiders. ″The wings were going back and forth and it went down,″ he said.

The coroner’s office identified two of those aboard the aircraft as Dr. Stanley Daniels, an FAA medical examiner who certified pilots as physically fit to fly, and Donald Stern, director of the the movies ″Creature″ and ″The Train Killer.″ Stern was most involved in directing television commercials, industrial films and military films, said Michael Hencin of the Directors Guild of America.

Two hours earlier, one person died when a single-engine, French-built Trinidad TB20 went down while making a final approach at the airport, officials said.

John Gibson, a stripper, carpenter and sculptor who appeared on CBS-TV’s ″The Young and the Restless″ in 1981, was the sole occupant of that plane, said friend Noel Blanc, son of ″Bugs Bunny″ cartoon voice Mel Blanc.

The younger Blanc, a pilot who had flown with Gibson, said Gibson’s girlfriend, ″Wheel of Fortune″ hostess Vanna White, was notified by police late Saturday that Gibson had been killed.

Coroner’s spokesman Dean Gilmour said today that official identification was awaiting comparison of dental charts.

Two people were killed and two seriously injured when a private plane crashed Saturday in a field near Chino Airport, 35 miles east of Los Angeles.

Authorities said their Piper Cherokee 160 touched down, then pulled up, but immediately lost power and crashed past the end of the runway.

In the ballooning accident, the craft struck a power line 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles at Temecula, severing the gondola, which fell about 60 feet to the ground. Two occupants were killed and a third person was critically injured, authorities said.

In Georgia, a Cessna 172 crashed Saturday into the carport of a home in Douglasville, killing one person aboard the plane and seriously injuring its other occupant, said Jim Skinner, an investigator with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. The occupants of the house were uninjured.

And in Oregon, a small plane crashed in a mining area in the rugged Cascade Mountains east of Eugene, killing four people, authorities said.