Local News

Elm City Pilot Dies In Durham Plane Crash

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DURHAM, N.C. — An Elm City man died when a small plane crashed Saturday in Durham.

The aircraft was a bi-plane, used for acrobatic manuevers. It went down near the Lake Ridge Aero Park, off Geer Street, just after 11 a.m.

It was only the second crash in the air strip's history. Witnesses said the plane touched down briefly and quickly went airborne. Then, on a second attempt to land, the acrobatic aircraft crashed, killing the pilot.

The pilot has been identified as Eddie Walston, the man the plane was registered to.

Randy Smith, co-owner of Lake Ridge Aero Park, said Walston was flying solo from an airport in Wilson to join other pilots who were going to a weekly cookout for aviators and residents at the airport.

The plane was identified as a Pitts S-1 Special. Considered one of the world's finest aerobatic aircraft, the single-engine S-1 was flown by the U.S. Aerobatic team to win the 1970 and 1972 World Aerobatic Championships. It first was designed by Curtis Pitts in 1943.

Bryan Gann lives near the airstrip. The crash forced him to relive a painful time in his life.

"Back in 1989, June 3rd, a Saturday just like this one, my daddy was killed in a plane crash just like that plane," Gann said.

Gann said his father always had a dream of setting up an airstrip in his back yard.

"He bought the airstrip and developed the 52 homesites that we have here, him and my brother," Gann said. "He only got to enjoy it for three years."

According to an FAA report, Walston's plane crashed in Creedmoor in December 1999. That crash was blamed on pilot error.

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