Marylanders killed in Fla. air crash Bodies of officer, pilot are identified

April 15, 1996|By JOE MATHEWS AND ANDREA SIEGEL | JOE MATHEWS AND ANDREA SIEGEL,SUN STAFF

A Howard County police lieutenant, a state inspector from Laurel and a federal employee from Virginia were identified yesterday as the three people killed when their plane crashed as it was trying to land near Lakeland, Fla., their families said.

Clarence H. "Jack" Ward Jr., 48, of Laurel was piloting the four-seat aircraft shortly before 5 p.m. Friday when the plane made an unusually tight turn and rolled over, slamming into a grassy area near a runway of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, according to a Lakeland Fire Department statement. The plane, which had been flying parallel to the runway, then caught fire.

Howard County Police Lt. Sam Chayt, 46, and David Liebergott, a 47-year-old federal employee from Alexandria who grew up in Baltimore, also died in the crash.

Authorities in Florida said that the identifications were preliminary and that final confirmation of the pilot and passengers would have to wait for the examination of dental records this week.

The three men were apparently on their annual trip to the Sun 'n' Fun air show in Lakeland, said Mr. Ward's sister, Ann Ward of Mount Airy.

"He was such a safe flier," Ms. Ward said. "He never even went up if it was bad weather."

The clear, sunny weather in Lakeland on Friday did not appear to be a factor in the crash. Officials for the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that they were investigating but refused to give details.

Lieutenant Chayt, a 22-year veteran of the Howard force, was a watch commander and something of a department legend.

As a sergeant in the force's narcotics unit, he would disguise himself as a concert-goer in order to bust drug peddlers during events at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Colleagues also said he was an unusually principled man who argued that officers should never take free meals or other benefits.

"Sam loved the job so much, he told me once that if he could afford to buy his own police car and equip it in the best way, he would do it," said Capt. Steve Drummond, who started with Lieutenant Chayt in 1974.

"He was always in the middle of things," Captain Drummond added, "in the middle of a search warrant, in the middle of a fight, in the middle of an arrest. He didn't seem to have a fear of dying, and he was never afraid to jump in."

A Balti-more native, Lieutenant Chayt graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in 1971. He taught special education in Prince George's County before joining the Howard County Police Department, where he won Police Officer of the Year honors in 1976.

He lived in Sykesville with his wife of 25 years, Elizabeth, and their daughters, Emily, 20, and Julia, 16. Survivors include his parents, Melvin and Betty Chayt of Baltimore, and two sisters, Janice Chayt of Fort Belvoir, Va., and Terri Broemm of Bel Air.

"The three things he loved most in life were his family, police work and flying," said Howard Police Capt. Jay Zumbrun, who spoke on behalf of the family.

Mr. Ward, an elevator and amusement ride inspector for the state Department of Licensing and Regulation, took off Friday morning from Haysfield Airport in Howard County, west of Columbia. The airport is a privately owned 2,000-foot grass strip of the type favored by recreational fliers.

An Army veteran who served with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Mr. Ward was a private man who was assigned most recently to elevator inspections in Montgomery County, said James Morkowsky, administrator of the safety inspection unit. At the same time, he was adventurous -- skiing and scuba diving, and taking friends such as Mr. Morkowsky for plane rides over Assateague.

His parents, Clarence H. Ward Sr. and Anna Ward, live in Mount Airy. He also is survived by brothers Eugene and Wayne of Salisbury, and Walter of Baltimore.

Mr. Liebergott's parents, Albert and Toby Liebergott of Baltimore, said their son had broken off contact with him after a family dispute in 1983. They recalled their son as a quiet young man, who played the violin at Woodlawn High School.

He worked for the government most recently as a computer technician in Washington, relatives and neighbors said.

Crashes occur almost every year at the Sun 'n' Fun air show, which brings thousands of pilots to Lakeland. In 1986, five people died in crashes related to the show.

Pub Date: 4/15/96

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