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Published: Thursday, 12/28/2006

Elmore flight instructor and student killed in crash


MOUNT GILEAD, Ohio - A flight instructor from Elmore and a student pilot were killed yesterday when a small plane crashed in a wooded area near this central Ohio town, the Ohio Highway Patrol said.

Walden Damschroder, 67, and Eric Balcom, 61, of Howard, died in the accident about 2:30 p.m., the patrol said. No one on the ground was hurt.

Although the patrol identified Mr. Damschroder as the instructor and Mr. Balcom as a student pilot, investigators had not determined who was at the controls when the plane crashed.

It was not immediately known what caused the accident or where the plane was headed.

A family member who answered the phone at Mr. Damschroder's home last night said the family had no comment.

Rex Damschroder of Fremont, a former Ohio state representative and longtime pilot and flight instructor, is a distant cousin of Mr. Damschroder. He said he was surprised because he knew Mr. Damschroder was a very thorough and experienced pilot.

"He's been flying an awful long time. He's probably been flying at least 40 years," Rex Damschroder said. "He's a very first-class pilot, the kind of pilot other pilots look up to.

"I wouldn't say that about any pilot. As an instructor, I'm very critical about pilots."

Rex Damschroder said he and Mr. Damschroder shared students and watched each other fly. He said his cousin had an amateur radio license and was very talented with electronics.

Mr. Damschroder has owned his own plane and had been flying more in recent years since he retired, Rex Damschroder said.

Troopers were on the scene investigating, and no further information was available last night, said patrol dispatcher Melissa Shipman. Federal aviation investigators arrived at the crash site to aid in processing evidence. The plane is a 1966 Mooney fixed-wing, single-engine model registered to a Dublin, Ohio, resident.

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