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West Michigan plane crash caused by pilot eager to see son’s race, NTSB finds

Police car lights (Dreamstime/TNS)
November 20, 2023

A Muskegon County pilot who didn’t want to miss his son’s demolition derby appearance in Indiana likely caused the July 2022 airplane crash that resulted in his death and that of a passenger, an NTSB investigation found.

The pilot, 55-year-old Raymond Gundy, took off in weather conditions for which he was not certified to fly and likely became disoriented and lost control, according to the final NTSB report released last week. The airplane crashed near Shelby shortly after takeoff in “atrocious” weather conditions at about 6:15 p.m. on July 15, 2022.

Troy Caris, 48, of Montague was the lone passenger for a trip to Warsaw, Indiana, about 150 miles south, where Gundy planned to see his son’s race. The Kosciusko County Community Fair held a demolition derby in Warsaw at 7:30 p.m. that night.

The weather conditions at the time of departure from Oceana County Airport were reported to be overcast no higher than 100 feet above ground level with poor visibility and rain, according to witnesses and nearby weather reports.

Investigator Ralph E. Hicks interviewed commercial pilot Rod Studer, a crop duster, who watched the plane depart and called the conditions “atrocious.”

“He could not believe that anyone would be attempting to fly in the weather conditions at the time,” he told Hicks, according to the report.

When investigators asked Gundy’s widow if her husband showed any urgency in starting the flight she said, she reported that “their son was driving in a demolition derby race in Warsaw and her husband had missed his previous races and did not want to miss this race,” according to the report.

The plane was destroyed on impact with trees and the ground. Several signs indicated to investigators that it was operating normally at the time of the crash, including smooth angular cuts on tree branches consistent with an operating propeller, the air speed indicator captured in place at 230 knots, normal spark plugs, a fuel system free of obstructions and fuel observed in the engine upon disassembly.


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