Hemet man killed during small plane’s very first flight

HEMET — The pilot of a small, home-built, kit airplane was killed after crashing at Hemet-Ryan Airport Saturday morning, June 8. The experimental aircraft – a twin-engine AirCam, which was manufactured by Lockwood Aircraft Corp and built by the pilot and his friends – had just passed its FAA inspection and the deadly crash happened during the plane’s inaugural flight.

Although coroner officials have not yet released the victim’s name, friends and family have since identified the man who died as Loren Gallagher, of Hemet.

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City of Hemet Police and Fire Departments, along with AMR, were dispatched to the fatal crash around 9:30 a.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor later said.

When officials arrived they found the small red and gold plane upside down near one of the runways. The pilot, later identified as Gallagher, was reportedly trapped inside the mangled wreckage of the overturned plane and had to be extricated from inside the open cockpit of the two-seater.

Hemet resident Loren Gallagher was killed while taking a home-built kit plane out for its first flight. The flight turned tragic when the wing appeared to fail and the small, twin-engine plane crashed. Will Whelan/Hemet Valley Incidents photo

Officials attempted CPR and requested an air ambulance while making other life-saving efforts, Hemet Fire Department later reported. However, the air ambulance was soon cancelled and Gallagher was transported by ground ambulance to Hemet Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

A person who was at the airport and witnessed the crash but requested to remain anonymous, later told RCNS the plane crashed moments after it lifted off.

“It started off fine and was lifting into the air when it looked like the wing possibly failed,” the witness reported. “(The plane) only managed to get about 30-40 feet into the air when it came crashing down, trapping Loren.”

“A wonderful man died today. So many will miss him,” one friend, Debbie Dunajski Schamber, wrote after learning of the tragic accident. “That plane was so much more than just a hobby for the men who built it. Today was going to be a celebration for it’s first flight and now it has turned into a tragedy.”

“I am thankful for only one thing,” Schamber wrote. “Loren was a good Christian man with Jesus Christ as his savior. RIP my sweet friend. Until we meet again.”

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the deadly crash, according to Gregor. Their results and findings will be released once their investigation is complete.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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