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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.