Four Ohio university students were killed late Monday night when their Cessna 172R crashed near a Cleveland airport and burst into flames, bringing their sightseeing trip to a fiery end.
The 1999 Cessna crashed at 10 p.m. local time in Willoughby Hills, near the runway at Richmond Heights’ Cuyahoga County Airport, only 16 miles (25 km) from downtown Cleveland. The aircraft had just left the airport for a four-hour trip when the accident happened.
All four of the young men were students at Case Western Reserve University; three of them were members of the college varsity wrestling team, according to Reuters news agency. The plane was rented for a sightseeing trip after the first day of classes and piloted by Felten.
The victims are identified as William Michael Felten from Saginaw, Michigan; Lucas Marcelli of Massillon, Ohio; John Hill from St. Simons, Georgia; and Abraham Pishevar of Rockville, Maryland. Felten and Marcelli, both 20 years old, were sophomores at Case Western Reserve. Hill and Pishevar, both freshmen, were 18. Marcelli, Hill, and Pishevar were members of the school’s varsity wrestling team.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and expect to file a report within 10 business days while the full investigation could take a year to complete.
The Ohio university’s student affairs staff and counselors are working with the students’ roommates and friends to provide support.
Case Western Reserve is one of the the world’s top research universities; it is small (10,325 students) but possesses the distinction of having research revenues exceeding $300 million and can count 15 Nobel laureates among their current and former faculty and alumni.
Two of the students (Felten and Marcelli) were members of Zeta Beta Tau, a Jewish fraternity. Felten had held his pilot’s license for a year at the time of the crash. Marcelli, in his second year at Case Western Reserve, was studying biochemistry as part of a pre-med program.
Pishevar and Hill, both freshmen, had just started school at CWRU and were in the process of settling into campus life. Pishevar had attended Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, where he also played football on the school’s team. Hill, coming from a small Georgia island community, also wrestled in high school.
Mark Hawald, the Ohio university’s wrestling coach, spoke to DiAngelea Millar of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, expressing his shock at the sudden loss.
“We’re just coping and mourning and figuring how we can move on from losing three of our teammates, three of our brothers, three of our family.”
So far, there are no answers on why the single-engine plane crashed. Witnesses reported hearing a plane engine struggling before the crash happened. Local residents hurried to the site to find the older-model Cessna in flames but there was nothing they could do to save the four passengers.
Mark Gerald, a 45 year old resident of the neighborhood, said:
“It was too hot. The whole fuselage was involved.”
A passing motorist, William Honaker, described the wreck as a ball of light; the 18 year old attempted to reach the plane but was stopped by both the heat and concerned witnesses.
“(The plane) was so mangled, I didn’t want to look at it anymore, to be honest.”
The Cessna 172 “Skyhawk” plane is considered to be one of the easiest, most popular planes to fly and has a good track record. However, crash rates for small planes are 43 times that of commercial aircraft. On average, one fatal small plane crash occurs every day in the U.S. In late April this year, the Inquisitr reported on an older-model 1965 Cessna 210 that crashed in the San Franscisco bay after colliding with a Korean War-era plane. The plane was recovered with its pilot’s remains still inside.
It’s being reported by Northeast Ohio Media Group that the Ohio plane had immediate difficulty in climbing after take-off and was engaged in returning to the airstrip when the accident happened. Capable of safely carrying only three adult passengers, the Cessna may have been overloaded and badly balanced for its weight class. This, along with the low visibility of flying at night, could have caused the plane to crash.
[Image Courtesy of Tony Dejak/AP]