Morris, IL Plane Crash, Feb 1973

Plane Crashes in Morris; 2 Killed

Morris, IL.,Feb. 5 - Investigators for the Federal Aviation Administration and the state fire marshal this morning began sifting through the charred wreckage of a freakish private plane crash within a block of downtown Morris Sunday afternoon which killed the pilot John H. Van Rheenen, 29, of 419 W. Washington St. And his brother, Antonius F. M. Van Rheenen, 27, of Union St., Seneca, formerly of Morris.

Plunging down in front of the Guy Osmanson residence at 320 Fulton St. at 4:10 p.m. The craft burst into flames within three to four minutes. Nosing into the ground with one landing gear wheel on the trunk of a parked car owned by Osmanson, a 1973 Sedan de Ville with 5000 miles, the plane remained intact until the fire started, according to witnesses.

Coroner James Reeves, who pronounced the victims dead at the scene, said an autopsy was conducted this morning in compliance with federal laws regarding air crashes. Results of the autopsy will be used to officially establish the cause of death at the inquest to be held later. Preliminary investigation reports stated both victims suffered multiple injuries and incapacitations.

Miraculously no one else was injured. Other than Osmanson's car, there was no property damage. The right side of Osmanson's auto was damaged extensively and the exterior as well and the interior was damaged by fire.

The plane was a single engine two-passenger 1971 Cessna 150 owned by Wagner Aviation. The plane number was N-6974-G, according to a city police report.

Robert Wagner of Wagner Aviation at Morris Airport, said John Van Rheenen rented the plane for one hour and fifteen minutes. Scheduled to leave at 3:15 p. m. The Van Rheenens were delayed 15 minutes, departing at 3:30 p. m.

Except for contact on departure the airport had no further conversation with the plane's occupants. Wagner said the craft, valued at $9000, had been flying Sunday 6 1/2 hours by four other parties prior to Van Rheenen. The pilot logged 71 hours at Wagner,s Aviation. Wagner said he did not know if he had additional hours somewhere else. Van Rheenen's pilot's certificate was No. 211-3730.

His brother, Antonius, was not a pilot. Wagner said he understood the brother had a new camera and the men were going to try to get some arial photographs. Flying conditions Sunday were "gorgeous," Wagner commented. Skys were clear and the wind from the south was less than 10 miles per hour, he said.

The plane's 100 horsepower engine was capable of 110 miles per hour, said Wagner. He estimated gasoline tanks were almost full because normally a plane is filled when it leaves. The plane held 18 gallons and uses about five gallons per hour. Van Rheenens were in the air about 40 minutes.

Pilot Van Rheenen rented a plane at the airport about twice a month, Wagner recalled

Preliminary check Sunday night indicated no mechanical problems, Wagner said FAA investigators told him. The wreckage, removed this morning to Wagner Aviation, will be thouroughly gone over during a subsequent investigation, Wagner said.

Seated about 25 feet away in his living room near a bay window, facing Fulton St., Osmanson said he dosed a minute while reading a Sunday newspaper when he heard a "thump." Looking out he saw the plane intact with the nose in the ground. One wing was across the top of his car and the other wing was parallel to the sidewalk leading to the curb.

Osmanson said he immediately called Davis ambulance. "It was a while before it caught on fire," he commented

The plane dived to the ground about one-half block in front of Mr. And Mrs. Gerald Friant as they were driving north on Fulton St. He immediately turned the corner at Main St. And headed for the police department to notify the fire department.

Friant said his family was riding around Sunday afternoon and had noticed the plane, pointing it out to their 2 year old daughter, Jeri. They saw the craft circling when they were on Washington St. "The tail was hanging real low," Frian said.

Momentarily it disappeared behind a Fulton St. building and then re-appeared. Friant said he saw it "wiggling" and low. Then it turned over on its side and plunged downward he added. The plane was headed northeast he said.

By the time the Friants returned to the scene, flames were starting. He estimated the time span between three and four minutes. "It looked like the car was on fire," he said.

Mrs. E. W. Grenell of 219 W. Jefferson St., whos house is on the east side of the street, said she didn't hear anything. The first she knew of a crash was when she saw lights flashing from police and emergency vehicles. She said she thought the car was on fire.

Fire Chief Keith Bartlett said the cockpit area and the car were flaming when firemen arrived. The blaze was extinguished within five minutes with four cases of foam. Firemen extricated the bodies and remained on standby service for an hour.

Larry Metille, a photographer for Halterman's of Morris was one of the first on the scene. Southbound on Fulton St. with his 6-year old son Mark, he was pulling to a stop at the Jefferson St. intersection when he noticed the plane.

He said the plane appeared to be making a half-loop or banking. Then it twisted and hit the ground. Headed northward at the time, the craft looked like it was headed south when it nosed into the ground, Metille said.

Running to the plane, Metille, a former Ottawa policeman, said he saw gas leaking and warned others to "get back." Metille said it looked as if the engine was pushed into the cockpit area. Shortly before it came down, the plane looked like it was clearing the highest trees only by about 50 feet.

Fourteen-year old Kim Munson of 416 West Ave.said she and Todd Enger, 12, of 537 Fremont Ave. saw the plane circling and losing altitude. Then it came straight down, she said.

Morris Policeman Sydney Reeve, Gerald Broderick and Carl Bremenkamp made a thorough report of the accident. In addition to the Morris Police Department and Coroner Reeves, other agencies which assisted and will continue with the investigations, were District 5 State Police, the Grundy County Sheriff's Department and Morris Fire Department. E. B. Possenriede, electronics inspector for the General Aviation District No. 3 office of the FAA at the DuPage Airport, arrived at 6 p.m. After a brief inspection he postponed further investigation until 10 a.m. today.

John W Van Rheenen was born June 7, 1943 in Holland, a son of Mr. And Mrs. J. P. Van Rheenen of Amsterdam. He came to the United States abouth 4 1/2 years ago.

For the past 2 1/2 years he was a service and instalation employee of Lindsay Water Conditioning. He is survived by his wife Johanna

Antonius F. M. Van Rheenen was born May 31, 1946 in Holland to Mr. And Mrs. Van Rheenen. He came to the United States from Holland about 7 1/2 years ago. For four years he served in the U. S. Force. Formerly he lived at 1029 Wauponsee St., before moving to Seneca about a year ago. He had been a member of Carpenter's Local 1092 since 1964.

In addition to his wife, Theresa, he is survived by a son, Michael, 3.

Both brothers, in addition to their parents who are flying here for the funeral, were survived by two older brothers, Fritz and Leo of Amsterdam who also are coming for the funeral; a brother Paul in Canada.; two sisters of Morris, Mrs. Richard (Anna) Swore of 804 E. Benton St., and Mrs. Robert Goodlet.

Mrs. John Van Rheenen's mother Mrs. Johanna Van Hemert and a sister Miss Cisca Van Hemert also are flying here from Holland for the services.

Funeral services will be at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Immaculate Conception Church. Visitation will be from 2 to 5 and 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday at the Reeves Funeral Home in Morris.

Burial will be in Mount Carmel Cemetary.

The following persons reported to police they were witnesses:
T.E. Ingels of Rte. 3, Heatherfield Subdivision; Robert Gunnerson of Goold Park Drive; Dr. Dimas of 305 Read St., Joliet; Dr. Dyorall of 1416 Campbell St., Joliet; Mrs. Mike Watchinski of Rte 1; Metille of 602 Seventh Avenue., Ottawa or 202 Liberty St.; Richard Nawa of 936 O'Connor Ave., Lasalle; Sheldon Sobol of 421 W. Jackson St.; Joan Payton of Rte. 1.

Mike Peterson of 320 Calhouns St.; Steve Covey of 528 Calhoun St.; Elizabeth Sobol of 421 W. Jackson St.; Kim Munson; Todd Enger.

Geraldine Babcock of 217 1/2 W. Jefferson St.; Michael T. Sheedy of 3645 W. 147th Place Midlothian; Karen Harper of 209 W. North St.; Helen Wilhelmi and Mark Wilhelmi, both of 418 W. Main St.; Scott Pierce of 425 Vine St.

Morris Daily Herald 1973-02-05