Local pilots dealing with 'tragedy'

January 30, 2009 3:28:08 PM PST
While federal investigators look into the cause of Thursday's deadly plane crash near Anahuac, three families are dealing with the sudden loss. We now know the identities of the pilot and the two passengers killed in the crash near West Bayshore Road and FM 563 in Chambers County. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The single-engine Cessna Taildragger went down about 3pm Thursday afternoon in Chambers County between Anahuac and Oak Island, killing Pilot Bill Cox, 76, of Beach City, Charles Blasingame, 76, of Beach City and Paul Mitchell, 37, of Mont Belvieu.

Local pilots are remembering those on board who were killed. All three men were well-liked in the aviation community. Dennis Barker said that Cox was a very experienced pilot with over 50 years under his belt.

"Super, super nice guy. You know, one of those guys who would do anything for you if he could," said Barker.

On Thursday, Cox, Blasingame and Mitchell took off in Cox's Bearhawk plane from RWJ Air Park in Beach City.

"I know it was well-built if Billy built it. Just from what I heard, he was very meticulous," said Barker.

The men had spent the day flying over the Bay marking GPS points for a fishing trip when something went wrong and the plane crashed around 3pm. All three men on board were killed. Federal aviation investigators are still trying to find out why.

"I knew last night who it was. I didn't need anybody to tell me," said Ben Truesdale who knew two of the men for years. He recognized the markings on the plane from watching news reports.

As the search for clues at the crash site continued, friends said they know one thing for sure.

"Community-wide, this is a tragedy," said Truesdale.

A recovery team was sent to the crash site to remove the wreckage. They took it to an air salvage yard outside of Dallas where federal aviation officials will continue the investigation.

The Bearhawk plane is sold as a kit, meant to be put together by its owner. It takes about seven weeks to build the plane by hand. The Bearhawk can carry up to four people and has a top speed of 175 miles per hour.

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