Dayton Air Show: Pilot, stunt woman killed in crash

Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013 @ 12:47 PM
Updated: Saturday, June 22, 2013 @ 7:04 PM

A stunt pilot and a wing-walking performer were killed in a fiery crash at the Vectren Dayton Air Show Saturday.

The pair was identified as Jane Wicker and pilot Charlie Schwenker on the “Jane Wicker Air Showsofficial Facebook page.

“It is with sad hearts that we announce that Jane Wicker and Charlie Schwenker were tragically killed while performing at the Vectren Dayton Airshow. We ask for your prayers for the families and privacy of all involved and allow them time to grieve and work through these events,” said the post.

Saturday’s portion of the air show was cancelled in the aftermath of the crash. Dayton International Airport was closed for 25 minutes, but resumed normal operations in the afternoon.

Director of Aviation for the city of Dayton Terrence Slaybaugh confirmed that two people died in the crash, which occurred at 12:46 p.m. The wreckage of the plane was removed from the field at about 4:45 p.m.

“Obviously this is a tragedy for what is a very small community,” he said.

Wicker was wing walking at the time of the crash, sitting on the underside of the inverted 450 HP Stearman named “Aurora”.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating along with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, which was already on scene for the show.

“Right now there is no conclusive answer about why the accident happened,” Slaybaugh said. He said the investigation could take months.

The plane did a cartwheel and burst into flames as it hit the ground. A fire truck was at the crash within two minutes and extinguished the flames.

“My understanding is there was nothing (emergency responders) could do for the victims of the crash,” said Lt. Mark Nichols. There have been no reports of injuries to anyone on the ground.

“All of a sudden I heard screaming and looked up and there was a fire ball,” said Stan Thayer of Wilmington.

Shawn Warwick of New Knoxville said he was watching the plane through binoculars. “I noticed it was upside down really close to the ground. She was sitting on the bottom of the plane,” he said. “I saw it just go right into the ground and explode.”

His wife was getting a drink when the crash happened. “I came back and everybody was just in shock,” said Cara Warwick.

Tonya Whittaker of Dayton said she has attended the air show the last six years and never expected to see anything like this. “It’s nothing you’d ever want to see and it’s instant terror,” she said.

Even those without a clear view of the crash said they knew something was wrong.

“I just saw the flames go up from being further back and you knew it was a bad situation immediately,” said Michael Peresta of Cincinnati.

15-year-old Griffin Hopkins, of Englewood, was with two of his friends when they heard an announcement over the PA about an act going on.

The three teens then turned away from the booth they were looking at and saw a woman outside of a plane.

“She was at the bottom of the plane, but the plane was upside down,” Hopkins said. “They were kind of getting pretty close to the ground there. It was upside down and it kind of curved down.”

Hopkins remembered the announcer saying, “look at that.”

The teens watched for 15 seconds before the plane hit the ground.

“We didn’t know if this was an act and they got out of the plane,” Hopkins said. “At first, we were like did they get out of the plane before it crashed?”

The announcer then told the crowd that this was not a part of the act and that parents should turn their children away.

“We were just in shock and standing there,” Hopkins said. “People were just in shock, everybody was kind of standing there looking at it.”

Vandalia City Councilman Dave Gerhard was seated alongside his family members inside the city’s chalet when the crash happened.

“It seemed like everything was just routine,” Gerhard said. “It was flying upside down. I just nose-dived into the ground. Quick as you can blink your eye there was an explosion. It was a nose dive. Boom. Big Explosion.”

He said the crowd was stunned and some onlookers began to cry.

According to Wicker’s web site wingwalk.org, in addition to performing in air shows she also worked as a budget analyst at the FAA full time, as a freelance writer and had returned to college to finish her degree in finance.

She was engaged to fellow team member and pilot Rock Skowbo, who was not involved in the crash. According to a wedding web site made by the couple they planned to wed on Wicker’s plane while it was in flight at an air show in 2014.

Many spectators were already leaving when show organizers cancelled the show for the day at 1:30 p.m. Organizers said the show will go on as scheduled on Sunday. The show will honor Saturday’s tickets at Sunday’s show.

Just before 3:30 p.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. show staff set off parts of a “wall of fire” that was supposed to be detonated as part of the day’s headlining act. The explosions had nothing to do with the earlier crash.

Wicker was the third act at the 39th Vectren Dayton Air Show after the Wright-B Flyer and the F-86 Sabre.

Veteran stunt pilot Jim LeRoy was killed when his stunt plane crashed and burned at the 2007 Vectren Dayton Air Show.

Husted bucks GOP, is against voter photo ID push

Published: Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 6:11 AM
Updated: Friday, April 08, 2011 @ 6:11 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The official who oversees Ohio's elections says he doesn't agree with a measure proposed by some fellow Republicans to require voters to show photo IDs at the polls.   

Secretary of State John Husted tells The Columbus Dispatch on Thursday that he would not change current policy that allows voters to prove their identities with photo IDs or other documents, such as utility bills or paychecks.   

A bill approved by the Ohio House would require voters to show the photo ID before casting an in-person ballot. It is now being reviewed by the Senate.   

Husted instead proposes changes for voters casting early ballots or provisional ballots. He says those voters should be required to give their full Social Security numbers instead of the currently required last four digits.

New restaurants, retail shops coming to Oxford

Published: Friday, October 28, 2016 @ 2:25 PM
Updated: Saturday, October 29, 2016 @ 4:37 PM

New restaurants and retail shops are coming to a development on the former Walmart site in Oxford.

Bishop Square — a 50,000-square-foot mixed use development at 419 Locust Street that currently includes 272 units of student housing — is adding Marco’s Pizza, Tim Hortons, a Sprint retail store and a bank.

“The final stage is important because we’ll be building the outlots that sit along Locust, which will serve as the front door to the whole project,” said Josh Rothstein, of Blue Ash-based OnSite Retail Group, which is handling marketing and leasing for the project. “The retailers and restaurants are excited to open their locations here because being across from Kroger, TJ Maxx and Dollar Tree provides tremendous exposure, great visibility and easy access to the shoppers already passing through this part of town.

“It’s also easily in walking distance to not only the concentration of Miami’s campus, but also the off-campus housing population,” Rothstein said.

Two other storefronts on the site are being are in the process of being leased, he said.

Existing Bishop Square tenants include Oxford Lane Library, Mercy Health - Orthopaedics and Sports Rehabilitation, Great Clips and Cloud 9 Vapor Lounge. A second-floor above some of those tenants includes office space.

Alan Kyger, Oxford’s economic development director, said the community is excited to see the Bishop Square project moving into its final phases.

“In 2005, when Walmart moved away from this site, the abandoned building that was left behind was a large eyesore for the Tollgate Business District, as well as for the whole community,” Kyger said. “Developer Robert Fiorita is to be commended in providing such a good-looking redevelopment project.

“The addition of these merchants will provide the citizens of Oxford additional shopping options. I expect each of these new businesses to be very successful in this new development.”

Marco’s Pizza has 700 stores in 35 states, doubling in size over the last five years and on track to 1,000 stores by the end of 2017, according to the company. Area locations include Middletown, Monroe, Hamilton and Liberty Twp. in Butler County.

Tim Hortons has more than 4,400 locations in the United States, Canada and the Middle East. Area locations include Monroe, Springboro and Maineville in Warren County.

Crash victim lived to fly, friend says

Published: Saturday, June 09, 2012 @ 8:16 AM
Updated: Saturday, June 09, 2012 @ 8:16 AM

A 73-year-old Bellbook man killed in a plane crash Saturday morning was an experienced pilot who had built four planes like the “experimental aircraft” he flew that day, according to his wife.

Roger Flower died in the 8 a.m. crash, said Sgt. Anthony Pearcy of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“Some witnesses in the area did see the plane flying and the witnesses believe they did see something fall off the plane,” he said.

Flying out of the Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport in Greene County, the plane flown by Flower crashed about 100 yards from a house at 1856 Ohio 380. Debris from the crash spread about 300 feet and the plane had extensive damage.

Flower was a naval aviator for 31 years who still loved to fly in his retirement, said Jan Flower, his wife of 50 years.

“It was his life, ” she said. “He was flying a plane that he had built and flew out of Greene County Airport and was there every day and loved it.”

After retiring from the Navy, he became a certified aviation engineer and began building his own aircraft, his wife said.

“He knew what he was doing about building it and just loved it and wasn’t ready to give up airplanes, so he built them,” she said.

Both natives of Ohio, Roger and Jan Flower have four sons and moved to Bellbrook eight years ago, when they were done traveling with the Navy.

She described her husband as “a leader, totally confident. (He) could tackle anything, could build or fix anything, loved his children and his grandchildren, (and) loved serving in his church.”

The OHSP is investigating the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.

The plane was a fixed wing, single engine, experimental/homemade aircraft, according to the patrol.

“According to the family members, it’s been flown before,” said Pearcy.

There was no flight plan filed for the plane and the destination of the flight was unknown, Pearcy said.

“As unfortunate as this incident is, it is fortunate that no other people were involved,” Pearcy said.

Arrest made in slaying of businessman

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 @ 7:44 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 @ 7:44 PM

Police have arrested a 20-year-old Dayton man in the slaying of a business owner found dead inside a burned out garage last week.

Anthony Lamar Stargell Jr. was arrested Wednesday morning and is in the Montgomery County Jail pending the filing of an unclassified felony murder charge.

Dayton Sgt. Dan Mauch said detectives believe Stargell shot and killed 54-year-old Tommy Nickles before setting a fire inside 838 S. Main St. on April 3.

“The fire did not do the damage that the perpetrator expected,” Mauch said Wednesday afternoon. He said evidence collected inside the business and from Nickles’ stolen work van helped lead detectives to Stargell. The van was recovered by police late April 3 in the 400 block of Leland Avenue.

A search warrant was executed at 2905 Oakridge Drive on Wednesday, where Stargell occasionally stays with family. He was taken into custody at about 11 a.m.

Nickles, of Kettering, died from multiple gunshot wounds and was found in a garage where he ran Quality One Electrical Service. A Golden retriever that had been shot to death also was found in the building, police said.

Nickles' family confirmed last week that he had been living in the building because of a recent divorce. They said they couldn’t fathom why someone would want to kill the father of two. 

“Tom was a good man, he was a good father,” said Gavin Whitt, Nickles’ godson.

Mauch said Stargell and Nickles knew each other. He said police are investigating robbery as a possible motive or that Nickles possibly owed Stargell money.

“It’s still an ongoing investigation,” he said. Police also are trying to locate several individuals who may have stolen property belonging to Nickles.

According to court records, Stargell was convicted of robbery in February 2011 and sentenced to five years’ probation.

His mother, Tonya Bailey, said her son recently got out of prison, but she doesn’t believe that he is responsible for Nickles’ death.

“I don’t think that he did do it, but if he did do it he didn’t do it by himself,” she said.

She said Stargell wasn’t on South Main Street on the night Nickles was killed. “He was here,” she said at her mother’s house on Wednesday.