Authorities ID two military instructors killed in Potomac River airplane crash

August 31, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The two men killed Saturday when their light plane crashed into the Potomac River were identified as military flight instructors, authorities from Quantico Marine Corps Base said yesterday.

The pilots, Robert S. Blassic, 72, a retired Navy commander from Bealeton, Va.; and Air Force Capt. Michael E. Huntington, 33, of Fairborn, Ohio, were killed about 1: 30 p.m. shortly after they took off from the base. They were not on a military mission.

"They were operating in a civilian capacity," base spokesman Bradley Gordon said.

The plane's engine had been installed seven hours before it crashed, a federal investigator said.

"Witnesses have said he was taking off [and] got to about 200 feet," said Jim Cain, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator. "It appears that he was turning around, trying to get back to the runway."

The plane crashed into the river near the end of the Marine Corps Air Facility runway near Doncaster in Charles County. The wreckage, which could pose a threat to river traffic, will be salvaged this week.

Witnesses did not report any strange noises, and no radio transmissions were received from the plane, Cain said.

The plane was a two-seat T-34 owned by the base's Morale, Welfare and Recreation Flying Club. It was not an active military aircraft, base officials said.

Both Blassic and Huntington were pilots with hundreds of flight hours, base officials said. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

Pub Date: 8/31/98

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