Associate Press

Pa. Skydiving Plane Crash Faces Probe

.c The Associated Press

JEANNETTE, Pa. (AP) - A Father's Day skydiving trip turned tragic when a small plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing four of the five people aboard.

Witnesses told authorities they heard the Cessna 205's engine sputter and cut out before the crash about 1:15 p.m. Sunday at Greensburg-Jeannette Regional Airport.

The aircraft apparently clipped four trees when it crashed about 100 feet from the runway, said Ron Supancic, chief of the Claridge Volunteer Fire Department.

The plane is registered to Charles E. Bryant, of Greensburg, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said. Bryant, 61, was among the dead, Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth A. Bacha said.

The coroner's office did not immediately identify the pilot, a 52-year-old Pittsburgh man. The other victims were David Ray, 49, of Seward, and Terry Blanish, 52, of West Newton.

``My world has fallen apart,'' said Marla Goodlin, 48, who was to marry Blanish next summer in Switzerland. Blanish had 15 years of skydiving experience and was approaching 2,000 jumps, she said.

Blanish, the father of three children, planned to spend Father's Day skydiving before meeting Goodlin for a boating trip, Goodlin said.

Bryant's son, Rodney, 37, said his father, who retired as a machinist about a year and a half ago, had 30 years of skydiving experience and had made more than 3,000 jumps.

Charles Bryant had operated Chuck Bryant's Skydive Bouquet in Greensburg for about 10 years and had the plane for about the same amount of time, his son said.

The plane, built in 1963 and designed for up to five passengers, had taken a skydiving flight earlier in the day and was on its second flight when it crashed, authorities said.

``That airplane was one of the best-maintained jump planes in the sport,'' Rodney Bryant said. The pilot was experienced and had made skydiving flights with his father before, he said.

An autopsy was to be performed on the pilot, as were toxicology tests required by the National Transportation Safety Board, he said.

The lone survivor, who had apparently been thrown from the plane, was found 10 to 15 feet from the wreckage. The extent of his injuries was not known Sunday night.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board sent an investigator to the airport in Jeannette, about 20 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

06/16/03 06:33 EDT