Merion, PA Senator John Heinz Plane Crash, Apr 1991
STATE IN MOURNING -- HEINZ DEATH A SHOCK.
Merion, Pa. (AP) -- Stunned Pennsylvanians grieve the loss of U.S. SEN. JOHN HEINZ III today as the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the cause of the midair crash that claimed his life Thursday.
The NTSB has promised a speedy but thorough investigation of the crash that left HEINZ and six others dead.
"We will be conducting this as a major accident investigation with a full team on board," NTSB vice chairman Susan M. Coughlin said after she arrived at the scene Thursday evening.
As firefighters plucked a red scarf and other debris from the collision out of a nearby tree, Mrs. Coughlin said the seven-member team would review everything from qualifications of the pilots and integrity of aircraft to air traffic control involvement.
Asked why it was a major investigation, she said "because it's a midair collision."
The crash shortly after noon Thursday killed HEINZ and the two pilots, RICHARD SHRECK, Montoursville, Pa., and TROND STEGEN, Hughesville, Pa., in his twin engine Aerostar PA60, two pilots, CHARLES J. BURKE, 42, Coatesville, Pa., and MICHAEL POZZANI, 43, Elverson, Pa., in a Sun Co. Bell 412 helicopter, and two children, RACHEL BLUM and LAUREN FRENDLICH, on the grounds of Merion Elementary School.
Three other children and two school employees also were injured.
John Fowler, 48, the school's head custodian, said only a few children were outside at the time. Most were in class or at lunch.
"Fifteen minutes later, there would have been 400 kids where the helicopter came down," Fowler said.
HEINZ'S death stunned lawmakers in Washington and Harrisburg, where he was remembered as a rising Republican star and an advocate of the elderly and the U.S. steel industry.
"The people of Pennsylvania have lost a great leader and the nation has lost a great senator," President Bush said in a statement issued in California. He said HEINZ had been a "close friend of our family."
Late Thursday night, HEINZ'S Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing today at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on telephone marketing scams and Medicare. The helicopter was headed to Radnor to pick up members of Sun Co's board of directors which had just concluded a meeting, company president Robert Campbell said.
NTSB regional official Gregory Faith said flight recorders had been on both the Aerostar and the helicopter. Not all helicopters carry flight recorders. He said investigators would try to retrieve information from it, "if there's enough to read."
The two schoolchildren were identified as RACHEL BLUM and LAUREN FRENDLICH, both 6 to 8 years old.
Valley Independent Monesson Pennsylvania 1991-04-05