Experienced pilots ID’d in La Center crash

Clark County

CAMAS, Wash. (KOIN) — Two experienced pilots were identified as the people who died in a small plane crash Monday afternoon near La Center.

Milo Luther Kays was flying for his biennial flight review when he crashed into a pond south of the East Fork Lewis River off NE 269th Street. Flight instructor Dennis R. Kozacek was in the passenger seat.

Two people died when a plane crashed in La Center, Washington, on Monday, Apri 29, 2019. (CCSO) 

Kays, 73, and Kozacek, 70, both died from blunt force trauma suffered in the crash, authorities said.

The men were described as good pilots with a lot of knowledge and experience.

“It’s been a stressful week,” said Kent Mehrer, president of the Washougal Aviation Association. “It’s a little unusual because they were both competent, experienced pilots with a lot of flying time in airplanes that we wouldn’t expect to see anything happen.” 

Mehrer knew Kozacek well and said the loss has left a “huge void” in the community.

Kozacek was a huge part of the Washougal Aviation Association, which has about 55 members. He loved flying and frequently volunteered for events.

Kozacek and his son helped fly supplies to Cascade Locks during the Eagle Creek Fire.

“He would do that type of thing all the time,” Mehrer said. 

“He was very much into [flying]. I mean, between the Navy and FedEx and private flying and instructing, he was always out here,” Mehrer said. “Beautiful day like today, he would probably be out here.” 

The plane, which was registered in Clark County, was a small single-engine 2-seater built from a kit. The crash happened less than a mile from the Daybreak Airstrip.

“It was a nice grass runway to practice landings at,” Mehrer said. “So what they were doing was very much a normal thing to be doing … so it was quite a surprise.”

Mehrer said people are speculating about what may have happened — plane failure, human error and weather are all potential factors. 

“Flying has a little bit of a risk of this but it’s actually quite low,” he said. 

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration said a preliminary report into the crash should take about two weeks.

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