Air show tragedy: Pilot, father and son killed in crash

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Two adults and an 11-year-old boy died after a private plane crashed Saturday around 1 p.m. at the Shelby County airport, shortly before the start of the Wings and Wheels Air Show.

The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza F-33 plane, carrying Indian Springs pilot Clayton Reuse and John Smitherman and his 11-year-old son Landon from Brent, Ala. in Bibb County, crashed just beyond the south end of the runway. No injuries were reported on the ground.

The four-seat aircraft was offering 10-minute, $25 rides to spectators to raise money for the Southern Museum of Flight.

Officials reported that the flight was supposed to be the last of the day before the air show was to begin.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but several witnesses have reported to the National Transportation Safety Board investigators that the engine sputtered immediately after takeoff.

The air show continued for the day and Sunday but no more rides were given to the public.

The air show was not cancelled because organizers said Reuse would have wanted the show to go on as planned.

&8220;It was a heart-wrenching decision, but we felt like we needed to go on and continue the show,&8221; said former Birmingham Aero Club president Ken Coupland. &8220;I know for sure that&8217;s what Clayton would have wanted.&8221;

Police cordoned the entire crash area off, including the Interstate 65 Shelby County airport exit that runs adjacent to the crash site, while NTSP investigators worked the scene most of Saturday afternoon and Sunday