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Witness says he could hear engine trouble shortly before aircraft crash

A single engine aircraft known as a "trike" crashed in a pasture off Christian Springs Road Saturday night

August 22, 2010|Tim Saunders | Reporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief

AMHERST, Va. — A prominent business man is one of two people who died when an aircraft went down in Amherst County Saturday night.

The small, single engine ultralight crashed into an empty pasture just before 7 o'clock near Christian Springs Road - that's just west of the town of Amherst.

Friends of 77-year-old John Milhous say that he and another male passenger, Carl Weber, were on board.  Both were killed.

Milhous owned an engineering firm called Milhous Company in Amherst.  Friends say he was an experienced pilot.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are trying to figure out what happened.

Meanwhile, people who saw the aircraft go down believe an engine malfunction is to blame.   

A State Police barricade is keeping the public away from Christian Springs Road in Amherst County; a quiet street that was anything but quiet Saturday night.

At a farm nearby, Eddie Carter was working on his fence when he saw a small aircraft fly over.

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Pointing toward a tree line to the south, Carter says "When (the aircraft) got over there, it was just like a kite.  It just took a straight nose dive and went down."

A loud noise soon followed.

"It got down below the tree line, where I couldn't see," says Carter.  "Then I just heard an explosion.  I heard them hit the ground and I saw black smoke rising.  I knew that they crashed."

What crashed was an aircraft known as a "trike."

Ron Dixon owns an airstrip near Route 29 and says the trike took off from his facility.

Carter says he sees aircraft flying from Dixon's strip all the time.

"They fly up and then they rev their engine and then they drop down and then they usually come back up," says Carter.  "When (the aircraft) revved up (last night), it took a nose dive and it was just wide open all the way down and they never could pull out of it."

Carter says it sounded like the aircraft was having engine trouble.

"It did bother me," says Carter.  "I knew they probably didn't survive.  It's not something you want to see."

The bodies of the two people killed in the crash have been taken to the medical examiner's office in Roanoke for positive identification.

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