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Father and son perish in plane crash

October 1, 2012 12:10 am


The investigation into Saturday's plane crash near Shannon Airport in Spotsylvania is continuing. 093012Crashx20241.jpg

A plane nears the landing strip at Shannon Airport Sunday, flying right over the spot where a plane crashed Saturday.


Stafford County residents John Morton Jr., 48, and his son, Kyle Morton, 13, died in a Saturday plane crash near Shannon Airport in Spotsylvania County.

They were the only people onboard the single-engine Cessna 150M plane that nose-dived into the trees at the end of Carrie Court in the River Heights mobile home park. No one on the ground was injured, and no homes were damaged.

The plane crashed about 5:10 p.m. Saturday, shortly after takeoff from Shannon. Eyewitnesses in River Heights reported seeing the plane climb sharply before tipping over and crashing nose-first into the ground, narrowly avoiding a house and a van parked at the end of Carrie Court.

On Sunday, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident along with the state police, and the cause of the crash has not been determined.

"Weather had nothing to do with it. Fuel had nothing to do with it," said Shannon Airport Operations Manager Robert Stanley. "But something happened."

Stanley, who sells fuel at the airport, said that while Morton did not own the plane, he had a deal with the owner to use it on occasion.

"He was an experienced pilot," Stanley said.

The weather at the time of the crash was perfect for flying--70 degrees, calm winds, 10 miles visibility and a ceiling of 12,000 feet.

River Heights resident Kimberly Chew was driving on Tidewater Trail when she saw Morton's plane taking off.

"It was going up pretty steep, steeper than normal, anyway," she said. "Then it looked like he was turning to come back to the airport. I think he just turned too sharp and lost control of it."

State police reported that John Morton had been working on the plane prior to the crash. The police also said Morton had been practicing takeoffs and landings. Stanley disputed that notion, saying the crash came on Morton's first takeoff of the day.

Stanley said onlookers and River Heights residents may have been confused; there are several Cessnas at Shannon that look nearly identical to the one Morton was flying.

While the runway at Shannon remains open, fuel sales at the airport have been suspended pending the investigation. Stanley said it is standard procedure for the FAA to shut down sales after an accident until tests can rule out fuel as a factor in the crash.

The crash victims' bodies were transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond for examination and autopsy early Sunday morning.

Investigators had not cleared the crash debris as of noon Sunday, but they planned to take it away by the end of the day.

The wreckage at the end of Carrie Court served as a reminder of both the tragedy of the crash and the good fortune that homes and people on the ground were spared.

According to The Free Lance-Star's archives, Saturday's accident was the first fatality at Shannon Airport since 2006, when Mitchell Strother crashed his single-seat plane into an adjacent field. Although there have been several other crashes at the airport since 1990, the next-most-recent fatality was a skydiving accident in 1980.

Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.