Thursday, February 15, 2001

Hamilton visitors die on plane

Alabama crash was near home

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Federal investigators were trying to determine Wednesday what caused an Alabama plane crash that killed five sales executives more than two hours after it left a Hamilton, Ohio, airport.

        The five employees from Auto Custom Carpet Inc. in Anniston, Ala., were killed about 6:30 p.m. (CST) Tuesday on the trip home after spending two days in the Tristate on business, company officials said.

        Talladega County Sheriff Jerry Studdard said the company-owned plane slammed into a wooded creek bed north of Munford, Ala., in poor visibility caused by fog and rain. There were no survivors.

        FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said a flight plan showed the airplane was traveling to Anniston from Hamilton, Ohio. At some point, the pilot told controllers he was changing his plan and heading to Talladega, about 20 miles southwest of Anniston. The crash site was about 50 miles east of Birmingham.

        Ron Davis, administrator of Butler County Regional Airport, said the twin-engine Cessna 421 arrived Monday and left the airport in Hamilton about 5 p.m. Tuesday, headed for home.

        The dead were identified as company co-owner and president Jeff Moses; pilot Don Robertson; Jeff Davis, a show manager; Camille Randle, director of programming; and Terri Tomlin, a telemarketing supervisor hired a week ago. All were from the Anniston area, authorities said.

        The company manufactures restoration and replacement carpet as well as classic interiors for automobiles.

        The victims were in Greater Cincinnati visiting at least three customer firms, including Nifty Products in Hamilton, A&M Soffseal in Harrison, and another restoration parts company in Knightstown, Ind.

        Katie Gray, a customer service associate at Nifty Products, said the five were there for sales training for most of the day Monday.

        “It's pretty shocking to hear something like this,” she said, adding that Nifty president Ray Sherman had become good friends with some of those who died since they began doing business together a year ago.

        Initial reports indicated that the plane may have exploded in mid-air, but Sheriff Studdard said one witness told investigators the craft sounded as if it was having engine trouble just before it crashed.

        An advertising agency that sent out a prepared statement for Auto Custom Carpet said the plane was bound for Talladega Airport, and lost altitude after passing over a runway and turning.

       The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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