Small plane crashed at birthday party

GUSTAVUS – A fatal airplane crashed Sunday during a child’s birthday party and claimed the life of a Brazilian immigrant who had come to the area to work on a northern Trumbull County farm, sources said.

The accident claimed the life of Douglas F. Bacconi, 30, of Sharpsville, Pa., and injured Brian N. Betts, 38, of Williamsfield.

Bacconi is survived by his wife, Abbey Miller Bacconi, and three children, including infant twins. He was a native of Brazil who came to Ohio to study agriculture, and later worked at a farm in northern Trumbull County.

A close friend described Bacconi as an ”asset to society,” and said Bacconi was one of the hardest-working individuals he had ever met.

Dave Harden, of Brookfield, was invited to the family gathering at the airfield along Gardner Barclay Road near state Route 11 in Gustavus. Harden intended to fly model airplanes as entertainment for the children in attendance, but he never got the opportunity.

The Trumbull County 911 Center reported that Harden was the first caller to report the plane crash. He placed the call at 2:51 p.m., according to the 911 center supervisor.

Harden did not see the plane, which was piloted by Betts, the aircraft’s owner, but he saw the wreckage in the field shortly after it went down.

“Our group was there having a picnic, just having a family-type gathering,” Harden said.

Betts was transported to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown with non-life threatening injuries. He was listed in stable condition Monday night, according to the hospital.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol said the engine stalled shortly after takeoff, causing it to lose altitude. The left wing of the plane then hit the ground and forced the nose into the ground. The accident is being investigated by the patrol’s Southington Post.

The patrol is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine if the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction or pilot error. The initial incident report should be complete within two weeks, said Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Harmon, but determining a cause could take longer, he said.

According to the FAA, the airplane was a 1946 Luscombe fixed wing, single engine plane. Tony Molinaro, FAA spokesman, said it is not at all unusual for World War II-era planes to still be in service. He said maintenance on those crafts is vigorous and thorough, and he did not think the age of the Luscombe craft was likely a contributing factor.


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