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'Pilot error' caused Ohio air show tragedy: police report

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Ohio air show plane crash that killed a pilot and his wing-walker partner last month was caused by "pilot error," an investigator said on Tuesday.

Highway patrol Sergeant Jeff Kramer, the lead investigator of the crash, said a report issued by the Ohio State Highway Patrol was the result of a preliminary investigation of the wreckage and eyewitness accounts, photographs and video of the event.

Jane Wicker, 44, and pilot Charlie Schwenker, 64, both of Virginia, were killed on June 22 during Wicker's wing walking stunt. Thousands of spectators witnessed the accident at the Vectren Dayton Air Show.

The report found that the Boeing Stearman biplane lost speed while it was coming out of an "inverted maneuver," meaning it was flying upside down. The plane's left wing touched the ground, and the plane crashed and caught fire.

"We don't find, with the weather reports from that day, that weather factors caused the plane to crash," Kramer said.

He said the highway patrol only plays a supporting role in the investigation that has been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB and other agencies will evaluate for the possibility of mechanical error, Kramer said.

The NTSB investigation is not expected to be completed for six to 12 months.

Wicker began her career in 1989 as a pilot and had recently returned to wing walking after an injury to her lung and spleen. Unlike most wing walkers, she did not use a safety line.

Wicker said in May that she planned to marry pilot Rock Skowbo at an air show in 2014. The ceremony was to take place while the two were in flight, according to her website, wingwalkwedding.com.

Schwenker started flying sailplanes in 1975 and competition aerobatics in 1990, according to Flyingcircusairshow.com.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)

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