The remains of a female passenger killed in an early Sunday airplane crash near Van Buren are being examined by the Lucas County Coroner’s Office in an attempt to identify her.
According to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the crash was so destructive that DNA testing may be required to determine her identity, deputies said.
The pilot, who also died, was identified as Ralf Bronnenmeier, chief executive officer of Grob Systems in Bluffton.
The plane, which crashed on Hancock County 18 between Cass Township 215 and Hancock Road 216, around 1:11 a.m., just missed hitting an abandoned trailer, deputies said. For the next few days, workers from the National Transportation Safety Board will be collecting debris from the crash, which was scattered over a wide swath of farmland and part of Hancock County 18.
FlightAware, an online flight tracking site, shows the small plane left West Michigan Regional Airport, near Holland, Michigan at 12:36 a.m. Sunday, 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 mph.
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.
In addition to the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Agency also has launched an investigation into the crash.
Records show Bronnenmeier had owned the plane, a fixed-wing single engine with four seats, for six years.
He had been CEO of Grob Systems since 2003. His obituary appears in today’s edition of The Courier.