An Ellicott City couple on their way back to Maryland from central New York state were killed yesterday morning when their twin-engine plane crashed into a farmer's field shortly after takeoff. Their 7-year-old son survived the crash but was seriously injured.
Kenneth M. Jahn, 37, was the pilot of the small plane that crashed at 10:30 a.m. after encountering heavy fog and rainy skies upon taking off from the airport in Skaneateles, N.Y., bound for the Carroll County Airport in Westminster. Mr. Jahn and his wife, Margaret Lesch Jahn, 34, were killed. Their son, Matthew, was in serious condition with abrasions last night at University Hospital in Syracuse, according to the Sheriff's Department in Onondaga County, N.Y.
Authorities in New York said that after Mr. Jahn took off, he apparently circled the plane over Skaneateles Lake in an attempt to return to the airport because of poor visibility and rain. The twin-engine Beechcraft Seneca 2 apparently struck a tree and then crashed in a farmer's field in Skaneateles.
The Jahns also are survived by a 3-year-old daughter, Margaret Ellen Hunter Jahn, who did not accompany the family on the trip to visit Mrs. Jahn's family in Auburn, N.Y.
Relatives and neighbors were stunned last night by the crash.
"They were friends beyond compare," said neighbor Bo Cooney.
George Bayless Jr., another neighbor, said Mr. Jahn frequently used the plane to travel to his family's business, Chicago Metal Corp., which is based in Chicago and has offices in Laurel.
Mr. Bayless said the family was visiting Auburn to attend the funeral of Mrs. Jahn's uncle, George F. Train Jr. of Rochester, N.Y.
June Pogue, who runs the Carroll County Airport in Westminster, said Mr. Jahn had learned to fly there and was a very proficient pilot.
"He had all his ratings, and he was very safety-oriented," she said.
The Syracuse Herald-Journal reported that the area around Skaneateles was blanketed with thick fog and that it was raining when the plane took off. Visibility in some areas was under one-quarter of a mile, said the National Weather Service at Hancock Airport in Syracuse.
Thomas K. Greenfield, 27, who works on the farm where the plane crashed into a muddy pasture, said the fog was so thick that he couldn't see the plane from the road.
"When we got down there, the plane was ripped up. You couldn't hardly tell it was an airplane -- it was ripped right apart," Mr. Greenfield said. "We had to load the father and son in the back of my pickup. Then we hooked a tractor up to the front of the pickup to get up to the road because it was so muddy."
Police in New York state said Matthew was thrown from the wreckage and suffered scrapes.
Mr. Jahn was cut free from the plane by volunteer firefighters and then taken to University Hospital in Syracuse, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Mrs. Jahn was dead at the scene.
Mr. Jahn, who is survived by his parents, one sister and two brothers, was born and reared in Chicago and graduated from Alma College in Alma, Mich. Mrs. Jahn, who grew up in Auburn, N.Y., also attended Alma College but graduated from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. They married in 1976.
Mrs. Jahn is survived by her father and six brothers.The Jahns were members of St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Ellicott City. Her mother, Margaret Lesch, was the subject of a well-publicized lawsuit against University Hospital in Baltimore. Mrs. Lesch died in November 1985 after skin graft surgery there.
Mrs. Lesch's family sued several doctors for negligence after the Maryland medical examiner's office revealed that Mrs. Lesch bled to death when surgeons attempted to insert a catheter into her jugular vein. The hospital had listed the cause of death as cardiac arrest during surgery. The family won a settlement in excess of $500,000.
Funeral arrangements for the Jahns have not been made. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Parkinson's Disease Association, 60 Bay St., Staten Island,
or the Sloan Kettering Hospital Research Foundation, New York, N.Y.