St. Petersburg Times----North Pinellas

1 man killed, 1 injured in Pasco plane crash
Investigators are still piecing together the circumstances of the crash near a private runway in Pasco County.
By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2003


SAN ANTONIO - One man was killed and a second was injured Friday when a small, single-wing plane crashed in an east Pasco County field.

It crashed shortly after 1 p.m. near Interstate 75 and State Road 52, killing 61-year-old Wesley Dyson Fisher of McVeytown, Pa.

Wade Shotts, 67, who lives nearby, was injured. He was taken by helicopter to to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he was in critical condition.

It was unclear who was piloting the 1957 Aeronca when it crashed just north of Shotts' private, grass airstrip, said Pasco County sheriff's Lt. Joe Frontz. It was also unclear who owned the yellow and blue airplane, model 11AC, known by the nickname Chief.

Federal investigators were called to the scene along Pasco Road, on hundreds of acres owned by Shotts' family.

"He's been flying forever," said Sheri Pike, Shotts' niece. "I've seen him up there for years and years. It's just something that he's always done."

Pike said she saw the commotion in a field near her home Friday afternoon and knew something was wrong. The airplane, its tail pointed straight up, was visible from the road.

Shotts' brother-in-law, Bill Mack, lives across the street from the airstrip and said Shotts regularly flies over the area in his small airplane and has never crashed before.

Fisher owned land in Dade City and, like Shotts, was a beekeeper with an interest in aviation, his family said.

"He loved to fly from the time he was little," said his mother, Emily Fisher of Granville, Pa. She said her son had seven children.

"It hasn't really settled in yet," Mrs. Fisher said of her son's death.

Shotts' neighbor, Duane Huskin, himself a pilot, flew private planes for years before retiring. He talked about flying with Shotts and looked the airplane over in the barn where Shotts stored it.

"He was up there every chance he got," Huskin said. "Last winter, every nice day you'd see him up there flying. You could tell when it flew over the house, it has a certain noise it makes."

The model is difficult to land, Huskin said, because of the way the landing gear is positioned.

Two wheels are in the front, and a third, smaller wheel is at the very end of the airplane's tail. Airplanes configured that way are known as "tail-draggers" and require a deft touch to land, Huskin said.

- Times staff writers Alex Leary and Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.