Crews seek 2 missing in plane crash

Arundel educator, one man killed near Ocean City

Search on for their spouses

Authorities hope for survivors

Annapolis school reacts to loss

March 17, 2002|By Jackie Powder and Rona Kobell | Jackie Powder and Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Authorities combed Ocean City's waters and beaches yesterday for two missing Queen Anne's County residents who were believed to have been aboard a single-engine plane that crashed Friday night, killing both their spouses.

The 1984 Cessna went down about 3 miles from Ocean City Airport, killing 52-year-old Linda C. Swonger, a popular assistant principal at Wiley J. Bates Middle School in Annapolis. The other crash victim found was 63-year-old Thomas G. Schrup, who worked for the federal government, a neighbor said.

Missing are Swonger's husband, Columbus Leroy Swonger, 64, a chief engineer aboard merchant ships, who police believe was the pilot, and Schrup's wife, Carlotta, 64. Both families live in Chester.

"We're hoping to find them along the water alive, if at all possible," Maryland State Police Sgt. Thornnie Rouse said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether the aircraft filed a flight plan when it took off Friday evening from Bay Bridge Airport and headed for the Ocean City Airport. A flight plan would determine whether Carlotta Schrup was aboard the plane.

The first indication of any trouble came at 6:50 p.m. Friday, when a pilot in a plane near Ocean City Airport reported wreckage to the Leesburg Flight Control Center in Virginia, which alerted the Worcester County Emergency Operations Center. Authorities say they did not receive a distress signal from the Swongers' aircraft.

Officials searched the area until 9:20 p.m. but found no evidence of the downed plane.

Two Ocean City residents discovered Swonger's body late Friday night as they walked on the beach. The body had washed up on the sand between Second and Third streets. Yesterday morning, a boater discovered Schrup's body floating near the inlet off the Route 50 bridge.

Rouse said that police found cars belonging to the Swongers and Schrups at the Bay Bridge Airport.

Counselors gathered at Bates Middle School yesterday afternoon shortly after hearing of Swonger's death from Principal Elsie Stevenson. They spent the afternoon consoling each other and planning for Monday morning, when they will be available to help students.

Swonger had been at Bates for less than a year and was well-liked by students, Stevenson said. "It was meant for her to be a part of our family," Stevenson said through tears yesterday. "It was so natural, the way she came in and touched so many of us in so many ways."

Teachers and administrators at Annapolis Middle School made similar comments about Swonger, who spent two years there as an assistant principal.

"She would go out of her way to communicate with parents, even visit homes, if she had to," said Annapolis Middle School Principal Reginald Farrare.

Linda Swonger accompanied her husband on many flights, but Farrare said the plane and the passion for flying belonged to her husband.

"She would always say, `I'm going flying.' She didn't care for it too much. She talked about that frequently," Farrare said.

Farrare said Swonger cherished the time with her husband, who would be away for months working in the engine rooms of large ships.

But recently, "Dutch" Swonger, as he was known in Baltimore's maritime community, had talked about retiring and was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and two sons, 17-year-old Travis and 19-year-old Jordan.

"He was getting ready to put his papers in," said Bill Van Loo, Baltimore branch agent for the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, the union where Swonger was a longtime member. "He was really looking forward to it."

Van Loo said Swonger, an avid sportsman, wanted to spend more time on his on-shore business - training hunting dogs for duck season. A dog lover, Swonger had placed a picture of himself with his two Labrador retrievers on his business cards.

Reached last night, the Schrups' son, Steve, said the family did not want to comment.

Paul Rodano Jr., a neighbor of the Schrups, said both had worked for the federal government and that Carlotta Schrup had recently retired and set up an etiquette business in her home, teaching manners to children.

The Coast Guard and other agencies will resume the search this morning.

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