Deadly Plane Crash

December 22, 2008 2:04:24 PM PST
The plane went down near Peach and Nebraska just west of Selma only minutes after taking off from Chandler Air Field in Fresno.The pilot a 79 year old Sanger man was a well known former military flyer.

The pilot is identified as Robert Mollring. A grandfatherly figure here at Chandler Field he was 79 years old.

He'd served as a pilot in the Air National Guard.

The plane, a Beech Bonanza, with a v tail, it's a controversial plane that has a record of breaking up in mid air.

Witnesses say the plane blew up and fell apart in the skies near Selma, just about 15 miles south of the airport.

Israel Dominguez: "We just heard a loud engine, just rum up real loud. We got up and looked and we just seen the explosion. This thing just explode up in the air, it an airplane."

Nathan Marroquin: "All you see is a big old explosion in the air, boom, pieces everywhere it's like snowing for awhile man, just pieces everywhere."

Pilot Robert Mollring's body was found in the wreckage.

Mollring bought the plane, new in 1979.

Those who knew him said he was a skilled pilot.

Former Fresno County Prosecutor Ed Hunt owns the same type of plane, and says this mishap is highly unusual.

Ed Hunt: "I have never ever known a Beech Bonanza to explode in the air."

However, Beech Bonanza's with the v tail have a troubled history of breaking apart in mid air like Mollrings plane seemed to do.

Elizabeth Freeman: "And saw the two wings detached coming down about like this...and then, he said, wheres the plane, and there was the body of the plane without the wings, spinning slower but falling a lot faster."

We don't yet know what happened to Mollrings plane, but records show under stress the v tail section of these planes can actually break off.

"Some people call them forked tail doctor killers or lawyer killers, or whatever."

That's because the planes were popular with well off professionals.

While many maintain the planes are safe, especially after the FAA required the tail sections be reinforced.

Statistics show the v tail planes are 24 times more likely to crash than the same planes with a traditional tail.

Whatever the cause Mollrings friends say his plane was in immaculate condition, and he was a highly skilled pilot despite his advanced age.

A daughter told us Robert Mollring was an air force fighter pilot in the Korean War, served in the air guard and worked as a stock broker in Fresno.

When his plane crashed today he was on his way to San Diego, to visit his mother, who is 102.


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