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Mon, Jan 24, 2005

GA Accident Claims Five In Kansas City

Cessna 421C Down In Affluent Suburban Neighborhood

For three people on board the Cessna 421C, it was supposed to be the start of a Florida vacation, full of fishing, family and friends. For a husband and wife ministry team, it was a ten-year anniversary present from their congregation. But all that ended in tragedy Friday, when the aircraft went down in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, KS. All five people on board were lost.

The victims were identified as:

  • Pilot James L. Kingston, 60
  • Kevin W. Holzer, 50
  • Lewis Bradley Smith, 73
  • Armour D. Stephenson Jr., 49
  • Shirley F. Stephenson, 46

The aircraft had just departed Johnson County Executive Airport when it dove through the overcast, clipping trees and powerlines, coming to rest against a wall surrounding the home of former Kansas City Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley. No one on the ground was injured, but two vehicles on Grimsely's property were damaged. One was destroyed by fire.

"This is kind of a close-knit community," George Jacobs, a longtime friend of Kingston's and Holzer's, told the Kansas City Star. "It's tough on everyone when you lose one," he said. "When it's two at the same time — two that people have known for years — it pulls the guts out of them."

Jacobs told the newspaper that Kingston had 30-years' experience in the cockpit. "He was the kind of guy who wouldn't drive a car without a seat belt on or checking his tires," Jacobs said. "He's real thorough."

It was overcast in Kansas City on Friday, with a ceiling as low as 300 feet.

There was no immediate indication of what caused the accident. "Nothing was reported amiss by the tower," Johnson County Airport Director Bob Perry told the Star.

Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass concurred. "We don't have any indication about why this plane crashed," he said.

Construction worker Rick Muth told the paper he saw the 421C (fille photo of type, above) nose-down, banking at a steep angle as it emerged from the cloud deck.

"I shook my head and couldn't believe what I'd seen," he told the paper.

Another construction worker at another job site, Kenny Waltherman, ran to the crash site to see if he could help. "It was the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," he said.



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