Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Bluffton firm’s CEO, 1 other killed

Airplane crashed into a ditch in Hancock County

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    Ralf Bronnenmeir

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FINDLAY — Two people, including the CEO of a Bluffton firm, were killed when a plane crashed northeast of Findlay in Hancock County on Sunday, authorities said.

At about 1 a.m., a small Lancair IV-P airplane crashed into a ditch near Hancock County roads 18 and 216 in Cass Township.

Ralf Bronnenmeier, the pilot, and a female passenger whose name was unavailable, were traveling from West Michigan Regional Airport in Holland, Mich., to Bluffton. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

One power line was down after being clipped by the plane. Hancock County deputies said they had not heard of any power outages occurring as a result of the downed power line.

“I woke up and saw a big fireball,” said Sid Bahr, a resident who lived near the scene. “Everything rattled — it shook the whole place up.”

FlightAware, a live flight tracking Web site, showed that the plane was flying at a speed of roughly 345 mph at the time of the crash. The records indicate that the plane began to lose altitude during the last six or seven minutes of the flight.

The aircraft made a 45-minute trip from Toledo Suburban in Lambertville to West Michigan Regional Airport, a public-use airport two miles south of the central business district of Holland, in Allegan County, Michigan. The aircraft landed at West Michigan Regional at 2:43 p.m. Saturday. It then took off at 12:36 a.m. Sunday, according to FlightAware reports.

Mr. Bronnenmeier, the CEO of Grob Systems, an automotive company in Bluffton, was described as a flying enthusiast who had upgraded to a Lancair after piloting Cessnas.

Mr. Bronnenmeier had worked with Grob Systems since 1994. He was involved with multiple facets of the company, including production, technology, finances, and administration, according to the firm’s Web site.

The Lancair IV-P, the fastest piston-driven airplane in the world, can travel up to 340 mph, reach a height of 29,000 feet, and seats from two to four people. In 2009, the FAA reported that Lancair planes, typically assembled from scratch using a home kit, accounted for a “disproportionate” 16 percent of fatal accidents among the amateur-built fleet in the United States.

Hancock County Road 18 was closed between Cass Township Road 215 and County Road 216 until about 10 p.m. Sunday. Authorities said no one on the the ground appeared to be hurt by the crash.

In 2012, the Ohio Department of Development approved $7.9 million in loans for Grob Systems of Bluffton, a factory that makes equipment for auto-manufacturing plants.

The two loans, for $6.4 million and $1.5 million, were earmarked to help Grob construct a 46,000-square-foot expansion that would result in creation of 113 jobs, officials reported.

Grob is next to Bluffton’s airport. Bluffton, in Allen and Hancock counties, 55 miles south of Toledo.

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