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Plane, medical helicopter collide near regional airport
The Associated Press
WEYERS CAVE -- Two men, one an Edinburg resident, were killed Friday afternoon near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport when a small aircraft collided mid-air with a medical helicopter, federal aviation officials said.
Jason Allen Long, 32, of Edinburg, and Jacob H. Kiser, 19, of Grottoes, were killed in the crash. They were aboard a 1967 Cessna 172 that collided with a 2005 Eurocopter about 2:30 p.m. Friday a half-mile north of the airport in Weyers Cave.
Authorities said the medical transport helicopter was able to land in a field, and the three people aboard walked away unhurt.
Long, a 1997 Central High School graduate and four-time All-American runner at James Madison University, was a certified commercial pilot and flight instructor, according to a Federal Aviation Administration database.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, identified those on the helicopter as pilot Paul Weve, co-pilot and flight nurse Joseph Root, and flight nurse Carolyn Booke. Geller did not have their ages and hometowns.
Geller said the helicopter had just dropped off a patient at the University of Virginia Medical Center and was returning to the airport when the crash occurred.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said it appeared the helicopter was attempting to land and the Cessna was taking off when they collided. He described the airplane as a small, general aviation four-seater.
State police said it was unclear who was flying the plane, which has dual controls.
According to weather observers, conditions were clear with light winds in the area around the time of the crash. The airport is about 30 miles northwest of Charlottesville.
Witness Joshua Becker told the Daily News Leader of Staunton that he was driving to visit family near the airport when he saw the plane graze the top of the helicopter. The plane immediately nose-dived into the ground, while the helicopter landed in the field.
Ronald Ritchie, who lives near the airport, told The Associated Press he walked toward the scene after hearing fire trucks go by his house. Though police roped off the crash scene, Ritchie said he saw the small plane on the ground in a gully among a group of trees.
The Cessna's registered owner is Michael W. Price, of Elkton, Peters said. Geller said Price was not one of the people on the plane.
The helicopter is owned by PHI Inc. of Lafayette, La.
PHI spokesman Brad Deutser said the helicopter is based at the Weyers Cave airport and is used to transport patients to hospitals throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Daily Staff Writer J.R. Williams contributed to this story.