Deadly Midair Collision Included Training Plane - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Deadly Midair Collision Included Training Plane

ST. PAUL, Ore. (AP) - Investigators looking into a collision over an Oregon state park that killed a former state trooper said Wednesday one of the two planes was flown by a flight instructor
and student.

Authorities said they aren't sure whether the teacher or the pupil was controlling the aircraft when it collided Tuesday afternoon with a plane flown by 58-year-old Stephen Watson, a
retired state trooper.

Watson was killed when his single-engine plane broke apart and slammed into the ground near Wilsonville. Investigators believe Watson was alone in the plane.

The instructor and student, who weren't identified, landed in a field and walked away from the aircraft without injuries. Their twin-engine, 1978 Piper PA-44-180 was registered to Hillsboro
Aviation outside Portland. Executives didn't respond to requests for comment.

"We're dealing with a tragic situation at this point and we're thankful no one on the ground was injured," National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Josh Cawthra said.

Watson's aircraft, a single-engine 1966 Beech Bonanza V35, broke apart after the collision, strewing debris over a 1½-square-mile area in and around Champoeg State Park, about 25 miles south of Portland, Cawthra said.

Investigators aren't sure whether the pilots were in communication with each other or with air traffic controllers when the planes collided. The weather was clear and sunny.

Investigators said the tail of Watson's aircraft was found about a mile from the rest of the plane. The nose of the training aircraft was sheared off.

Watson retired from the Oregon State Police in 2002 after a 26-year-career in the Astoria and Tillamook offices. He was working as the assistant director of public safety at the University of Portland.

Watson was a "very quiet, calm, competent leader," said state police Lt. Gregg Hastings, who has known Watson since both started their careers in Astoria in the 1970s.

"He was always a top notch Oregon state trooper and sergeant," Hastings said.

      
 (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
   

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