Airshow Pilot, Airport Manager Die in Kansas Plane Crash

ATCHISON COUNTY, Kan. (The Kansas City Star/TNS) —

Two people died when a World War II P-51D Mustang crashed in Atchison County on Sunday, one day after the Amelia Earhart Festival ended.

Longtime pilot Vlado Lenoch, 64, of Burr Ridge, Ill., and his passenger, Bethany Root, 34, manager of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport in Atchison, died at the scene, officials said.

The crash happened around 10:30 a.m. in a field about 2 ½ miles northeast of Cummings, Kan., less than nine miles from the airport in Atchison.

The cause of the crash is unknown, said Lt. Bryce Whelpley of the Kansas High Patrol.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to arrive on the scene Monday morning, Whelpley said. The single propeller of the plane and wreckage of the crash were strewn across a small hill.

The FAA will investigate the crash, an agency spokesman said, and the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation.

Lenoch had performed in the festival the day before in his vintage aircraft.

The annual festival, held in Atchison, celebrates the famed aviator Amelia Earhart.

Lenoch performed for Dave Darcy Airshows based in Chicago. He was married and had three children, according to his profile on the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation website.

He learned to fly at 17 at Chicago’s Midway Airport and earned engineering degrees from Purdue and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He held multiple authorizations for various aircraft, had logged over 9,000 hours of flight time and built his own aircraft — a Pitts S-IT – the bio said.

Root, according to a 2014 profile in the St. Joseph News-Press, followed a love of flying to the St. Joseph area three years ago at the age of 31. She worked for the airport’s management company, McElwain Sprayers of Wathena, Kan.

She had been a special education teacher and ran a custom motorcycle shop in Indianapolis until she took an opportunity to learn to fly and work with the McElwain crop dusters in Kansas and Missouri, the feature said.

“She was extremely passionate about flying,” Jacque Pregont, who coordinated the Emelia Earhart Festival, said Sunday. And the festival was “excited to have (Lenoch) at the airshow.”

“It’s a horrible, horrible loss,” Pregont said.

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