Pilot killed in LaPorte County aircraft crash

2013-07-21T18:11:00Z 2013-07-22T11:35:04Z Pilot killed in LaPorte County aircraft crashStan Maddux, Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 21, 2013 6:11 pm  • 

The pilot of an ultralight was killed Sunday when his small aircraft went down in a LaPorte County corn field.

Benjamin T. Hubbard, 36, of South Bend, was identified as the pilot who died, police said.

About 7 a.m., a 911 dispatcher received a call from a resident about a possible plane crash in the area of Division Road and 600 East, according to LaPorte County Sheriff's Department officials.

The resident reported he believed a crop duster airplane had crashed.

Responding deputies could find no evidence of a plane crash, though, but did observe a crop duster in the area still flying so they cleared the area, authorities said.

Authorities were called back about five hours later by the pilot of a single-engine plane who spotted the wreckage about 200 feet south of Division Road and about a half-mile east of 600 East.

The pilot kept circling the wreckage until deputies venturing out into the corn 6 to 10 feet high reached the crash site and discovered the body, police said.

Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said investigators were heading to the scene Sunday to determine what caused the aircraft to crash. The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation because it involved a death.

Lunsford said Hubbard was the only person in the aircraft.

According to FAA records, the aircraft Hubbard was flying was a fixed wing single-engine Challenger II that is manufactured by David W. Cooper. Hubbard owned the aircraft and a certificate for it was issued July 10.

The pilot of the single-engine plane, who was not identified, told investigators he and Hubbard had taken off about 6:30 a.m. from the airport in Niles, Mich., in separate aircraft.

He said they were both en route to Plymouth where they planned to meet.

When Hubbard failed to arrive, the pilot took off in his plane and retraced the route back toward Niles and discovered the wreckage, calling authorities on his cellphone.

LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said it appears the two men planned having breakfast together once touching down in Plymouth.

''I understand they were pretty good friends,'' Mollenhauer said.

Times Staff Writer Elvia Malagon contributed to this report.

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