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Two Students Killed in Airplane Crash

By Sarah Y. Keightley
and Ifung Lu

Staff Reporters

Jonas R. Klein '97 and Christina Park '96 were killed Sunday afternoon in a freak accident when a free-falling sky diver hit their single-engine plane, causing it to crash in western Massachusetts.

The Piper Cherokee PA28 plane was struck by a sky diver, went into a tailspin, and crashed in a wooded area, killing all four people aboard. The passengers were Klein, 18, Park, 18, and Jean Kimball, 45, of Pine Plains, N.Y. The pilot was Klein's father, according to Robert M. Randolph, associate dean for students assistance services.

The sky diver, Alan Peters, 51, hit the vertical stabilizer on the rear of plane at about 120 miles per hour (197 kph), causing it to spin out of control and fall over 7000 feet (3300 m). Peters was able to open his parachute and land safely. He was hospitalized with a broken ankle.

The crash occurred in Northhampton, Mass. around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The plane had taken off from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and its destination was somewhere in Boston. However, the pilot had not filed a flight plan and was flying under visual flight rules.

Investigation begins

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident, according to board spokesman Michael Benson. Investigations take several months to a year to complete, he said.

This type of accident is very unusual, Benson added. A similar accident occurred at a New England air show last year where the sky diver was killed, he added.

According to a report on CNN Headline News yesterday, the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why the plane was in a designated sky diving area.

Last night there was a meeting at Senior House which focused on counseling students and planning memorial services, according to John Hammond, house master at Senior House, where Park lived. East Campus residents were invited as well because Park lived there her freshman year. Tonight there will be a meeting at Tau Epsilon Phi, where Klein lived.

At last night's meeting, Park's friends gathered to remember how she had touched their lives. A dean on call and a representative from the medical center were there to answer questions and present different options for support. But they also emphasized that talking among friends is a comforting option.

Among the blurry eyes and concerned faces, friends remembered Park's energy, life, creativity, and how she was never afraid to express herself. They remembered how happy she was when she told her parents she was going to study biology rather than be a pre-medical student. They remembered her dying her hair orange last year (and suggested planting an orange flower garden in her memory), painting wigs, dancing over her homework, and always smiling.

"The brothers and friends of Tau Epsilon Phi mourn the loss of our brother Jonas," said Adam C. Ganderson '97 in a statement. "He was a hacker in every sense of the word, and we're all going to miss him greatly. We send our love and condolences to his family, friends, and everyone who knew him."

Providing counseling for students

Randolph met with Campus Police and other officials yesterday afternoon to pool what was known about the incident and to determine how the Institute would help students cope with the deaths.

"We'll make people available," Randolph said. "We'll really listen to see what's needed. We'll talk to students, and we'll go from there."

Plans for memorial services will be developed soon, Randolph added.

Hammond was notified of the deaths Sunday night. He contacted Senior House residents to inform them of the accident and to provide counseling services. "Many students will be affected," Hammond said.

Hammond also opened communication with the Dean's Office and credited the deans for playing "a vital role in putting together" last night's meeting at Senior House.

Eva Moy and Eric Richard contributed to the reporting of this story.