NTSB probes cause of fatal ultralight plane crash


Tribune Correspondent

2:12 PM EDT, July 22, 2013


A pilot who died when his ultralight crashed in a corn field near Mill Creek was en route to have breakfast with another pilot flying with him in a separate aircraft.

Benjamin Hubbard, 36, of South Bend, was found dead at the crash site before noon CDT in a field in the area of LaPorte County Road 600 East and Division Road.

“It's horrible. It's your worst nightmare, said Ken Linblack, 52, of Niles, who was flying with Hubbard to have breakfast in Plymouth.

Linblack said he had just met Hubbard a little more than a month ago when Hubbard began storing the ultralight he had just purchased at the Niles airport.

They had gone out for breakfast together once before near Kalamazoo.

On Sunday, they left before 7 a.m. EST from the airport in Niles, heading to Plymouth where Hubbard had a restaurant picked out.

Hubbard was piloting an ultralight while Linblack was at the controls of a single-engine Cessna plane.

Linblack said they were communicating with each other during the flght but somewhere near Rolling Prairie they lost radio contact.

He said Hubbard had had technical difficulties with his radio before where he could hear other pilots but they couldn't hear him, perhaps because of problems with his microphone.

“I was hoping that was the problem,” Linblack said Monday.

Linblack said he continued on to Plymouth and after touching down, waited about a half-hour.

But when Hubbard failed to arrive, Linblack flew back to Niles, where two other pilots got into a plane and began searching for Hubbard.

The two pilots (in one plane) flew over the area where Linblack lost radio contact with Hubbard and they spotted the ultralight in a field with corn six to 10 feet high, police said.

“I did not know him long but he was really gung-ho about flying and he was really excited about it, that's for sure,” Linblack said.

He said Hubbard had a permit to fly the ultralight and was working toward obtaining his pilot's license.

“He was a great guy. Real outgoing,” Linblack said.

Hubbard, a 1994 Mishawaka High School graduate, was a general contractor and owner of 3 Points LLC.

Among his survivors are his mother, Suzanne Harlin, of Mishawaka; his father, Thomas Hubbard Sr., of Carol Stream, Ill.; a daughter, Carli Hubbard, of South Bend; and his brother, Thomas Lee Hubbard Jr., of Carol Stream, Ill.

The cause of the accident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

LaPorte County Police Chief Deputy Jim Sosinski said investigators were at the sheriff's office Monday morning obtaining photos of the crash site to help in their ongoing probe.

“We don't know it it was medical, mechanical or what,” Sosinski said.

The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Hahn Funeral Home, 505 W. 8th St., Mishawaka. A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. in the funeral home with the Rev. Vito Rulli officiating.