Pilot’s death is determined to be accidental

Investigation continues into Wilbert 'Skeets' Mehre's plane crash in Fern Prairie

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As the area’s piloting community grieves the loss of one of its own and remembers him fondly, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Traffic Safety Board continue to investigate the cause of the plane crash involving Wilbert “Skeets” Mehrer.

He died Aug. 3, in a plane crash in Fern Prairie. Mehrer, 84, of Canby, Ore., was flying from Hermiston, Ore., to Grove Field, when the crash occurred in a field near English Auto, 26710 N.E. 19th St. There were no passengers on board. The Camas Police and Fire departments, as well as East County Fire and Rescue, were dispatched at 4:40 p.m.

Mehrer’s death has been determined to be accidental due to multiple blunt force injuries, following an autopsy performed Friday by the Clark County Medical Examiners Office. No other significant factors are listed on the death certificate.

The cause of the crash has not been determined.

“According to witnesses, he was coming in for a landing at Grove Field and circled around too fast or too high,” said Clark County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Barnes.

Dennis Hogenson, a senior air safety investigator with the NTSB, visited the site the morning after the crash.

“We have made some progress, but we have a lot of work to do,” he said Monday. “We look at the airplane itself and the history of the airplane. We are reviewing maintenance records and pilot records — log books and records with the FAA — basically any records we can find on our pilot and medical reports.

“We are still interviewing witnesses,” Hogenson added. “We are attempting to get a better understanding of what happened that particular day. We typically like to have things wrapped up in 270 days.”

Mike Fergus, an FAA spokesman for the Northwest Mountain region, said the results of an FAA investigation will be forwarded to the NTSB.

Larry Mills, who lives across the street from the crash site, said he heard the plane.

“Oh boy, did I,” he said. “He was probably 100 feet over the top of my trailer. I was just getting ready to eat. I heard a ‘thud.’ That’s when he hit.”

Mehrer’s single-engine, four passenger airplane is a Piper Comanche P24-250, manufactured in 1960.

“He was a great guy,” said Jim Metzger, operator of a maintenance facility at Grove Field. “He was an institution at our airport.”

Mehrer owned approximately five acres on the north side of the airport.

“He had two large hangars and a mobile home,” Metzger said. “He had a collection of about 15 airplanes — including 10 Stearman World War II training biplanes.

“He had restored all of them lovingly,” he added. “They were beautiful showpieces. We believe that’s the largest collection of that type of airplane — under single ownership — anywhere in the world.”

Metzger said Mehrer was generous with his time and tools.

“‘Skeets’ was always over there at his hangars — on a rainy day or a sunny day — it did not matter,” Metzger said. “He was a really nice guy. I have a heavy heart. He had a pretty wide footprint.”