Home » Tragedy Mars This Year’s EAA AirVenture Celebration After A Pair Of Fatal Crashes. Here’s How You Can Help

Tragedy Mars This Year’s EAA AirVenture Celebration After A Pair Of Fatal Crashes. Here’s How You Can Help

Warbirds In Review 18 Lowres By Loren Hannah (1)
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This year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Fly-In has ended on a somber note. On Saturday morning, a warbird crashed into Lake Winnebago. Just hours later, two rotorcraft collided in mid-air near the event’s flightline. Four people are dead and two more are injured in crashes that are leaving families and friends in pain and mourning. Here’s how you can help those people get through a troubling time.

Last week, Sheryl and I spent six days taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and touches of the greatest airshow on this planet. I have an entire docket of articles to write from the show detailing a century of aviation history. However, not everything from this year’s show was thrilling. Unfortunately, this year’s AirVenture was also deadly. Many of our readers know that we do not often report on stories where people are hurting or worse. In this case, I think we can help make a painful time a little better for those involved.

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The Crashes

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Texas Warbird Museum/Hunter Reiley

As the Experimental Aircraft Association reports, on Saturday morning, at just after 9 a.m., a North American Aviation T-6 Texan departed Wittman Regional Airport. As the United States Coast Guard Great Lakes noted, a few minutes after the aircraft’s takeoff, it was maneuvering at roughly 3,000 feet above ground level when it rapidly descended and crashed into Lake Winnebago in about 20 feet of water. The pilot was Devyn Reiley of Texas with family friend Zack Colliemoreno as passenger. First responders arrived on the scene after calls of a downed aircraft. A massive emergency rescue response was triggered which involved, from EAA: “the Winnebago County Marine Units with Dive Rescue/Recovery Team members, along with the Oshkosh Fire Department, Winneconne Fire Department, Neenah Menasha Fire Rescue, Calumet County Sheriff’s Office, Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.” Unfortunately, Reily and Colliemoreno died in the crash.

About three hours later, tragedy struck again on EAA AirVenture’s grounds near the flightline. At 12:24 p.m., a RotorWay Exec 162F helicopter and an ELA 10-Eclipse gyrocopter collided in mid-air near the south end of the flightline. Both rotorcraft were carrying two people. Mark Peterson of Alabama was the pilot of the helicopter with Thomas Volz of Ohio as his passenger. The two died in the mid-air collision.

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RotorWay Exec 162F similar to the one involved. – Controller.com seller

The gyrocopter came down onto a parked aircraft. As of writing, the names of those in the gyrocopter have not been released. However, they survived the crash with injuries and are reportedly in stable condition. EAA, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, and the Oshkosh Fire Department responded to the incident and the United States Air Force firefighters extinguished the resulting fire.

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At this time, details about both crashes are slim. What EAA can say for now is that all of those involved were attendees of the event, not airshow participants. Every day, AirVenture has one or more airshows and on Saturday, the afternoon airshow began at 2:45 p.m. after a delay for an initial investigation into the rotorcraft crash. The NTSB is investigating the causes of both accidents.

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An ELA 10-Eclipse similar to the one involved in the crash.

The People

Not much is public out there about the occupants of the helicopter. Helicopter pilot 69-year-old Mark Peterson was a Certified Flight Instructor and ran AirMark Helicopters in Foley, Alabama. According to his website, he provided construction, maintenance, upgrades, and flight training to the owners of RotorWay and Robinson helicopters.

His passenger was 72-year-old Thomas Volz of Ohio. As Fox19 reports, Volz was at the airshow with his grandson. According to his wife of 52 years, Patty, Volz was an Air Force veteran, a cancer survivor, and someone who fought to stay alive. Volz had a lifelong dream to build his own helicopter and completed that dream, though didn’t bring the helicopter to AirVenture. As Fox19 reports, his remains will be flown back to Ohio, where Patty plans to have them cremated.

Flying the T-6 Texan was 30-year-old Devyn Reiley, the daughter of two-time Super Bowl champion Bruce Collie. Reiley earned her private pilot certificate in 2017 and her instrument rating in 2020. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association notes that she was an avgeek with adoration for warbirds and sought to preserve and share the history of Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP. She co-founded the Texas Warbird Museum and grew up dreaming of becoming a pilot, just like her father.

She is survived by her husband, Hunter. The two got married at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2020. Reportedly, the wedding was carefully planned so that every year, they would celebrate their anniversary among friends and family at the airshow. Her passenger, 20-year-old Zack Colliemoreno, is noted to have been a family friend.

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EAA expects the NTSB to put out a factual report of both crashes within days. An initial report will then be published in roughly three weeks with a full report about a year after the crashes.

Sheryl and I were on the ground on Saturday, but weren’t near either crash site. As I’ve said in the past, AirVenture is a colossal event spanning literal miles, so huge that most people were unaware of what happened. EAA made no public announcements to those on the grounds. Your only clue that something wasn’t right was the fact that departures were halted for two hours after the rotorcraft crash. However, departure halts were a problem throughout the show, especially on Thursday.

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Mercedes Streeter

So, unless you saw something, you had no idea what was going on. The afternoon airshow was delayed slightly, but continued without an announcement or information about the crash that caused the delay. That night, AirVenture hosted a lighthearted fireworks show that glitched out, leading to the crowd singing Sweet Caroline.

Sheryl and I were in Warbirds at the time of the second crash and while I did see smoke, I didn’t think anything of it as smoke was a common sight every day during this year’s event. We didn’t find out about the crashes until I Googled AirVenture landing videos on Sunday morning. Looking back, it was eerie how nothing about the airshow changed after a day with two fatal crashes.

How You Can Help

If you’re interested in helping these families get through this time, there is currently one clear way to help. Devyn’s sister, Calyn Collie, has set up a GoFundMe asking for $25,000 to help cover funeral and memorial expenses. The family is also looking to set up a scholarship fund in Reiley’s name. That GoFundMe is currently sitting at about $23,000.

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As of now, it appears that the families of the others involved have not asked for any help. I will update this piece and future coverage should that change. We’ll leave a link to the crowdfunding pages on our future coverage as well. For now, we’ll be monitoring these two incidents and seeing what we can do to assist. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, friends, and everyone else hurting after this weekend.

 

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BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
9 months ago

I learned from this that Devyn has 11 brothers and sisters.

JTilla
JTilla
9 months ago

Do they not stop the event if a crash occurs? It seems odd to me that a plane would go down and people die and they keep going till another occurs 3 hours later.

Berck
Berck
9 months ago
Reply to  JTilla

Why would they stop? There are crashes at Oshkosh pretty much every year. They work pretty hard to keep operations flowing in spite of them, but often at least one runway is closed for cleanup after they occur.

Statistically, given the number and type of aircraft operations, you’d expect 2-5 crashes over the week.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago
Reply to  Berck

121 takeoffs / landings per hour when airport open (1 every 30 seconds). 18,684 aircraft operations in the 11-day period. So, 0.02% crash rate for mostly amateur pilots. Seems reasonable.
– last years statistics

Last edited 9 months ago by Chronometric
Ron888
Ron888
9 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

The numbers are great but it still feels wrong

William Domer
William Domer
9 months ago
Reply to  JTilla

The first crash was into Lake Winnebago, not really near the EEA. PS. over the years there have been a multitude of crashes. Usually they occur on the way to Oshkosh from disparate parts of North America of on their way back to disparate parts of North America.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
9 months ago
Reply to  William Domer

Exactly, the crahes typically occur en-route there or back, extremely rare on the grounds themselves, and TBH considering the volume of planes, it’s probably on par with normal crash statistics for light aircraft, there just happens to be an unusually large number of them attending a single event. The rotocraft crash was a tragedy, but in general over 70 years of conventions the accident rate is extremely low.

Last edited 9 months ago by Highland Green Miata
Scott Ross
Scott Ross
9 months ago

Glad to see you were able to get more information. Thanks for the update and thank you for forwarding the gofundme.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

I’m an old warbird myself. Back in training when I was earning my Air Force wings, we stepped out of class one morning to watch a flight of B-52s practicing minimal interval takeoffs (12-15 seconds spacing between aircraft takeoffs). The number two bomber encountered violent wake turbulence left by the lead aircraft. The pilot cut power in an attempt to reduce the turbulence and maintain control of the aircraft, but he over corrected and flamed out all eight engines. The B-52 immediately dropped out of the sky and exploded on ground contact, killing all nine crewmembers aboard. A funereal pyre of thick black smoke blanketed the crash site.
It stunned us all.

The thing about air crashes that shocks even those who fly is the speed at which things can go wrong and the unforgiving nature of the realm in which flight occurs.

Later in my career I had the great fortune to survive a midair collision with another aircraft. One second we were proceeding on plan and schedule, and the next another aircraft filled the windscreen and wham. In this instance, the other aircraft wasn’t where it was supposed to be at that moment. That’s all it takes.

In 2013, at the Dayton Airshow, I lost a friend and former coworker, Jane Wicker, who was a famous wing-walker. Jane was standing on the top wing of her Stearman as her pilot rolled inverted for a low pass down the runway. Inexplicably, the plane dove into the ground and exploded leaving no survivors. It was yet another shocking reminder of the exacting nature of flight, especially at the limits.

When I saw this weekend’s EAA accidents news I knew immediately how spectators, family and friends must have felt. A Go Fund Me donation is on the way.

On a lighter note, that Aleutian Tiger P-40 photo you posted is wonderful.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago

Thank you Mercedes for covering this so that they can be remembered and providing a way to help.
So sad all around

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
9 months ago

Devyn seems to have been a good sort, and good for the family for setting up a scholarship fund. As a teen, I took flying lessons for about a year, until my instructor died in a plane crash, which kind of freaked me out of it. Rationally, I know it is safe, but that definitely changed my perspective. I’ve ridden along in a T6 once, and they are wonderful planes. I hope her museum lives on and continues educating people about the WASP.

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