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Updated: 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 3, 2014 | Posted: 2:18 p.m. Sunday, June 1, 2014

Woman dies after Middletown propeller accident

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Sarah Rhoads has passed away after propellor accident photo

Sarah Rhoads, an office manager for Start Skydiving for three years, accidentally walked into an operating propeller on a Nouvel Air airplane that was idle Sunday, June, 1, 2014, on the tarmac at Start Skydiving in Middletown. Rhoads passed away on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Start Skydiving, 1711 Runway Drive, Middletown June 1, 2014 photo
Vivienne Machi
Start Skydiving, 1711 Runway Drive, Middletown June 1, 2014
Start Skydiving, 1711 Runway Drive, Middletown June 1, 2014 photo
Vivienne Machi
Start Skydiving, 1711 Runway Drive, Middletown June 1, 2014

By Vivienne Machi

Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN —

An employee who was injured over the weekend at Start Skydiving in Middletown died Tuesday.

The Montgomery County Coroner's office confirmed Sarah Rhoads passed away after suffering severe head injuries at the skydiving facility on Sunday.

John Hart, the owner of Start Skydiving, said Sarah Rhoads, an office manager for three years, accidentally walked into an operating propeller on a Nouvel Air airplane that was idle on the tarmac. He said Rhoads, as she frequently did, walked out to the airplane to ask the pilot if he wanted any food.

Hart said there is no way to tell, but he suspects Rhoads either didn't know or forgot the plane had two propellers on its wings. He said the airport was leasing the plane because of the high volume of skydivers expected over the weekend. The plane has a limit of 23 skydivers, he said.

Hart said he was skydiving in Jacksonville, Fla., and he landed at Middletown Regional Airport about 10 minutes after the accident. He said the incident was "absolutely horrible" and the "worst nightmare of my life."

He called Rhoads like a daughter, and a sister to the other jumpers.

"It's hard," Hart said Monday afternoon during a press conference at the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration has opened an investigation into the incident, as is protocol in accidents involving airplanes. The FAA will look at areas under its regulatory responsibility, including rules of flight, certification of the pilot and aircraft and training, according to FAA Spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory.

Hart said Start Skydiving has an "impeccable" safety record and noted the accident wasn't skydiving related. He said there have been skydiving injuries, but this was the first accident involving a propeller.

The company has been in business for nine years and at the Runway Drive location next to the Middletown Regional Airport for five years, he said.

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