Investigators open probe into airplane crash that killed father and son

Federal investigators began examining Monday the wreckage of a two-seater, home-built airplane that crashed Sunday in Virginia, killing a man from Davidsonville and his son from Westminster, the father of 10 children.

On Saturday, experimental airplane owner and pilot Barry Raymond Newgent, 73, and his passenger and son, Thomas Barry Newgent, 51, were bound for the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight, a weekend air show. The other small airplanes in a group of four traveling from Maryland arrived safely.

"When we all landed, we didn't find him," said Ted Bryant, who runs B&B; Sport Aviation at by the Cambridge-Dorchester Airport on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Bryant said he had planned to have a booth at the air festival, but after the crash everyone was too upset to stay.

The Newgents' plane, a Rans S6S built from a kit, crashed about 1 p.m. in a field near Suffolk, Va., according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Bryant said witnesses told him it seemed as if the small aircraft had stalled. But Dennis Diaz, NTSB chief investigator for the case, said it is too soon to say why the plane crashed.

"This is a long, involved process. Our point in it is to find out why it happened and if possible try to make recommendations to prevent accidents from happening in the future," said Diaz. The full investigation could take a year or more, he said.

Virginia State Police were working with the NTSB.

Bryant said the elder Newgent built the plane in his garage in Davidsonville then moved it to Cambridge, where the wings were attached. He described the plane as a two-seater, single engine plane with a wingspan of about 32 feet.

"He was a wonderful, dedicated man," Bryant said. He said the elder Newgent was married, and Bryant understood that Barry Newgent had performed missionary work. He described him as "a down-to-earth, God-loving man."

On Friday night, Tom Newgent had worked the sound equipment for a performance of the Homeschool Harmonizers at Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium, said Gregg Yarian, a family friend who met Tom Newgent and his wife, Yvonne, through another church. He described Newgent as a "good friend, a loving dad, a loving husband, and somebody who was passionate about Jesus Christ."

He said the couple had 10 children, all home-schooled.

"He was passionate about his kids," Yarian said. "Very much the love of his life."

Yarian said Newgent, who he said was a government contractor at Fort Detrick in Frederick, was always willing to discuss his faith. He said he made regular trips to the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School to minister to young men and hosted weekly Bible studies at his Westminster home.

"He was always willing to help somebody," he said.

The elder Newgent had been a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association since 1993. His son was not a member. According to the FAA, Barry Newgent's 10-year certificate for the plane was to expire in 2016. It was certified airworthy in 2007. Newgent had a private pilot's license.

There are about 33,000 amateur-built planes in the country, a number that goes up about 1,000 a year, said Dick Knapinski, a spokesman for the organization. The classification for experimental airplanes includes some such as World War II planes strictly for air shows, not only planes built by individuals.

He said the planes are inspected for air-worthiness by the NTSB.

Last year, the NTSB made recommendations for safety improvements for amateur-built aircraft.

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