LANSING | A gyroplane pilot from Gary died Monday from injuries suffered in a crash shortly after he took off from Lansing Municipal Airport in his one-seater aircraft, according to Illinois State Police.
Edward Wiggins, 66, of the 6900 block of Ironwood Avenue, was pronounced dead at 12:04 p.m., at The Community Hospital, in Munster, according to Lake County coroner's office. Wiggins died of blunt force trauma to his body.
Wiggins was the sole occupant of the gyroplane, and no one else was injured in the crash at 11:20 a.m., said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Jason LoCoco. He said police do not know why the aircraft crashed in a field about 170 yards south of the airport's main runway.
Several people at the airport witnessed the crash, LoCoco said.
An investigator-in-chief from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the Lansing airport Monday evening to begin examining the aircraft in order to determine the cause of the crash, said NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway. Such investigations can take as long as a year or more, according to the NTSB website.
The Federal Aviation Administration also is investigating the crash, said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.
John DeLaurentiis, manager of the Lansing Municipal Airport, said the aircraft involved was a homemade gyrocopter, also known as a rotor copter. DeLaurentiis declined further comment, directing all calls to Illinois State Police.
Tom Milton, treasurer of the Greater Midwest Rotorcraft Club based at the Lansing Municipal Airport, said the type of aircraft involved is safe to use.
"They're one of the safest things flying," Milton said.
Milton said Wiggins was a member of the club, which has 50 members from suburban Chicago, Northwest Indiana and Wisconsin.
He said Wiggins was a member for at least one year and had just started flying gyroplanes. Milton doesn't know how much instruction Wiggins had on the aircraft, which Wiggins had worked on building for two years.