Passenger in small plane crash still unidentified

The Lucas County coroner is examining the remains of a female passenger killed in an early Sunday morning airplane crash near Van Buren.

According to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the crash was so severe that DNA testing may be required to determine her identity.

The plane just missed hitting an abandoned trailer, said deputies. For the next few days, workers from the National Transportation Safety Board will be collecting debris from the crash, which was scattered over a swath of farmland and part of Hancock County 18.

The pilot, who also died, was Ralf Bronnenmeier, CEO of Grob Systems in Bluffton.

FlightAware, an online flight tracking site, shows the small plane left West Michigan Regional Airport, near Holland, Mich. at 12:36 a.m. Friday, with Bluffton as the intended destination. It ascended to 14,900 feet, but began losing altitude at 1:01 a.m., dropping more than 1,000 feet each minute. Speed was maintained at more than 300 miles per hour.

At 1:05 a.m., when he was northeast of Ottawa, Bronnenmeier turned east instead of continuing southeast to Bluffton. The crash occurred six minutes later.

Records show Bronnenmeier had owned the plane, a fixed-wing single engine with four seats, for six years.

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