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Plane crash claims one life

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Aircraft went down on farm near airport moments after takeoff

By Randy Patrick

The pilot of an airplane that crashed near Samuels Field and Ben Irvin Road Thursday night died in the accident.

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Nelson County Coroner Field Houghlin pronounced John David Hall, 68, of Bardstown, dead at the scene of the crash.

E-911 Dispatch received the call about the plane crash at 6:22 p.m.

The aircraft was near a private road on the farm of brothers Tom and Kent Bischoff. The crash site had been secured around 8:30 p.m.

In  a press release Thursday night, Sgt. Mike Clark of the Sheriff’s Office said the pilot was the lone occupant of the aircraft.

Nelson County EMS and the Bardstown Fire Department responded along with sheriff’s deputies.

Clark said the Federal Aviation Administration has been notified and will be handling the investigation into the accident.

On Friday, Cory Johnson of Bluegrass Aviation, the fixed base operator of the Bardstown-Nelson County Airport, said investigators of the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were at the airport and the sight of the crash. He thought they would be finished with the inspection by Saturday.

“They’re fixing to move the plane to a secure area and start tearing it down,” he said.

 Johnson said he expects the NTSB and FAA to have a preliminary report published within weeks but final reports sometimes take months or years.

He did say, however, that there was “no sign of mechanical failure.”

The plane landed nose down in or near a soybean field.

Johnson said he and others at the airport had only known Hall for a short time since he brought his plane out and stored it in a hangar. He had previously kept it at home. It was a kit plane that Hall didn’t build, but did restore. The flight Thursday was the first and last since he had finished working on it, he said.

The Hall family, however, has a long association with the airport, which opened in 1963. David Hall’s father was once the operator of airport, and his mother’s handprint is still in the concrete.

Ron Harrell, who lives on Ben Irvin Road and used to work for the Bischoffs, saw the plane go down and described it in an interview for PLG TV-13.

Harrell was with his wife when they noticed the plane was having a problem.”

“It made a climb. It pulled up and then it didn’t go very far, and then it just kind of made a turn and just a little spiral, and it went straight down,” Harrell said.

He told his wife the plane had crashed, and then he could hear the percussion from the impact. “What part of it I saw, it just lasted a few seconds,” he said.

Harrell said he grabbed the keys to his truck and drove down Ben Irvin Road, but couldn’t see anything. He was familiar with the Bischoffs’ farm, so he drove down a gravel road to the crash site, where he met Hall’s wife, Sharon, whom he knew. He also knew her deceased husband.

“I walked over there, and I could see that there was nothing I could do,” he said.

It was sad, Harrell said.

“He’s just a pilot doing what he liked to do.”

Kent Bischoff said he was at home having his evening meal when he got a call about the crash.

When he reached the site and saw the bright yellow plane, Bischoff thought it was one of the Carbon Cubs Dustan McCoy and his son, state Rep. Chad McCoy of Bardstown, have.

“I thought it was Dusty’s plane, but I went up there and Dusty was standing there,” he said.

Hall’s wife, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and EMTs, were also there.

It actually wasn’t a Carbon Cub, but was similar to one, Johnson said, and Hall was its third owner and had overhauled it.

McCoy declined to be interviewed out of respect for Hall's wife and family.

Bischoff said he knew Hall from when they were both in the Kentucky Army National Guard’s Bardstown unit, but he hadn’t had a conversation with him in nearly 50 years. Bischoff went to Vietnam in 1968 and Hall didn’t. Their paths didn’t cross even though they lived in the same small town, he said.

“It’s a terrible thing,” he said of Hall’s death.

The Bardstown-Nelson County Airport has undergone a major runway, taxiway and lighting project this summer, and it had been closed for some work Thursday until 4 p.m.

The Bischoffs' grain and cattle farm, which was once a dairy farm, has been in the family since before the airport was built, Bischoff said.

He said he knew of six people who had died in flights near the airport, including two generals who were killed in the 1990s, and an experimental aircraft pilot who died.

Editor’s note: PLG TV-13 reporter Tom Isaac and Editor Forrest Berkshire contributed to this story.