Police: pilot killed, as crop-dusting plane crashes in Branch County field

Posted at 9:40 PM, Aug 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-18 23:35:40-04

BETHEL TOWNSHIP, Mich. —  The Federal Aviation Administration arrived late Saturday night at the scene of a fatal small-plane crash in Branch County. The single-seat/single-engine crop duster went down in a bean field in a rural section of Bethel Township – killing the pilot, according to Michigan State Police.

Photo Courtesy: The Daily Reporter – Coldwater.

Sergeant Todd Price with the MSP Marshall Post tells FOX 17 it happened Saturday,  between 5:35 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. The location is north of the intersection of Kosmerick and Snow Prairie  roads in Bethel Township, which is east of the City of Bronson and west of I-69.

“The F.A.A. is on-scene investigating tonight, and will resume its investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday afternoon,” says Price. According to an MSP news release, the pilot “appears to have died on impact, but an official cause of death will be determined at the upcoming autopsy.”

Witnesses told police the plane was trying to negotiate a turn to dust another row of crops with agricultural chemicals when it went down. Sergeant Price says the pilot -25-year-old Phillip Ching of Middlebury, Indiana – was killed, and nobody on the ground was injured. Police say Ching was originally licensed out of Elsie, Michigan. “(He) was staying in Middleberry for the summer, to work for Lutes Flying Company, the owner of this plane.”

Lutes Flying Service is baed in Shipshewana, Indiana, according to Price, who said the family of the pilot has already been notified.

There was no early indication what caused the crash.

According to The Daily Reporter, “Witnesses said the pilot was diving, spraying the field from about 20 feet when it hit the ground. Bronson Fire responded…..The plane was just visible about half a mile south of Hatmaker Road, and half a mile north of Kosmerick, east of Snow Prairie…”.