Investigators Search for Clues About Plane Crash

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

February 24, 2006

Benjamin Hickin, described as adventurous, was an experienced pilot from Waynesboro. He was an airline pilot for years, but tragedy struck when his plane went down near I-81 on Thursday.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Thursday night a friend dropped Hickin off at the Eagles Nest Airport, where he borrowed another friend's Cessna 182. Friends of the family said Hickin took it out for a joy ride, which is something he loved to do.

"Yes, [flying was] something he loved to do. He was doing what he enjoyed doing and that's flying," said Jonas Hochstetler, a family friend.

But the joy ride ended in tragedy. The FAA's initial investigation found that the single engine plane struck a power line and lost it's wing. The plane crashed in a ditch next to mile marker 232 on I-81, killing 30 year-old Hickin.

"It made contact with a tractor trailer, a car carrier. The car carrier was not significantly damaged and the driver of that vehicle was not injured in any way," said Sgt. G. Scott VanLear, of the Virginia State Police.

The manager of the Waynesboro airport said he heard no calls for distress. Hickin leaves behind a wife and 5 children. Friends said they are trying to cope with their loss.

"They have a lot of friends and they have the church community, and they have a lot of support. Under the circumstances I couldn't imagine it," said Hochstetler.

A representative from Cessna and the National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating the crash. A final report is not expected to be released until the investigation is complete. That will take at least 3 months.

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