WAUKESHA, Wis. — Both occupants of a small aircraft that crashed in the Village of Waukesha Tuesday have been pronounced dead by authorities.
Family identified the victims as 74-year-old Randy and 70-year-old Susie Reimer. They had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Investigators don’t know at this point what caused the crash. Family tells us they were headed home to New Mexico after visiting family in Wisconsin.
The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that first responders were called to the area around 9:41 a.m. regarding reports of a loud noise and possible debris.
The Milwaukee Approach Control Tower also reported that they had lost both radio and radar communication with an airplane.
Deputies searched the area and found the plane in a wooded area south of Redwing Drive. There they confirmed the deaths of the pilot and passenger of the plane. No one else was injured in the crash, the sheriff’s office said.
TMJ4 News has learned from records that the plane was a fixed-wing, single-engine Glastar with two seats. It was an amateur build, with the pilot assembling most of the plane.
The plane’s last flight was from New Mexico to Texas, and from Texas to Kansas City. The plane was heading to Salina, Kansas when it went down in Waukesha County.
TMJ4 News spoke with pilot Dick Knapinski, who says the plane has a good safety record. “A very stable design, a very sturdy design, lot of them out there that have been built and flying successfully,” said Knapinski.
David Eicher has lived in the village of Waukesha and in this specific neighborhood for 30 years.
He was at home on his computer, writing an article, when he was startled.
“I was having an ordinary morning, working on stories about space, and heard what I thought was a strange thump,” Eicher said. “I thought of a heavy truck slamming or even a truck crash, but there was no evidence of that.”
Eicher said it wasn’t until he came outside and asked the deputies what was going on that he learned a small plane had crashed.
”Across the street on my side of the street, a couple houses down, there appears to be a little part of fuselage,” Eicher said. “It’s shocking and horrible and very sad day for the township here, and the families involved.”
Eicher told us he often hears small aircraft going over his home, but he never thought anything to this magnitude could happen.
The incident is being investigated by the National Traffic Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration.
The NTSB’s online database shows the board has investigated 21 aviation accidents in Wisconsin this year – four of which were fatal.
The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Village of Big Bend Police Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Villages of Waukesha and Vernon Fire Departments.
Audio between pilot and dispatch
TMJ4 News has obtained the recorded conversation between pilot Randy Reimer and air traffic dispatchers.
The first two minutes are of the pilot and dispatcher checking in with each other.
Soon after, Reimer tells dispatch “to hang on a second” as his audio keeps going in and out. He was trying to tell them where he was flying to.
Dispatch then tells him “We can barely hear you.” He keeps asking the pilot where he is.
Reimer eventually says, “I can hear you now.”
About a minute later, Reimer tells dispatch, “We’ve got to climb. I hope to get above the clouds.”
Reimer then tells dispatch, “My destination is Selena, Kansas.” This would be the last they hear from him.
Right after, dispatch asks him if he’s going to be able to reach his destination. He says something like “or do you need to,” but then it cuts out and says something inaudible.
Almost four minutes into the recording, the dispatcher says, “Radar contact has been lost.”
The dispatcher asks another dispatcher to try to contact the plane or see if they can see him on the radar.
The other dispatcher tells the original dispatcher, “They haven’t responded.”