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Plane crash victims remembered

Crash Victims
Jul. 06, 2009 @ 11:09 PM

KENOVA — Michael Land boarded his private plane at Tri-State Airport on Sunday afternoon, turned to his brother-in-law and said “Book me for next July the Fourth.”

Mourners said those words and many others paint a legacy of a corporate executive who achieved a balance between work and family.

The 53-year-old father of two died with his elder son, Andrew Land, known by most as “Drew.” Their plane, a single-engine Cessna 400, crashed moments after take-off. Both were returning to the family’s home, near the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport in Michigan.

The National Transportation Safety Board continued its investigation Monday. The crash site was four miles south of the airport and about 150 yards from a home on Buffalo Creek Road.

The victims’ family includes mother and wife, Nancy, along with brother and son, Zach. The foursome had celebrated the holiday with Nancy’s sister, Barbara Meek. She lives in Kenova with her husband, retired Barboursville Police Chief Alan Meek.

Family members followed the father-and-son duo to the airport, where their plane departed about 1 p.m. Sunday. Alan Meek said they learned of the crash upon returning home.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It just goes to show you how important your relationships are with people and how it is important to let people know how you feel about one another.”

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters and Alan Meek said they were not aware of Michael experiencing any problems before take-off. He was an instrument-rated pilot with numerous arrivals and departures recorded at Tri-State Airport, Meek said. That was confirmed by NTSB investigator Jose Obregon during a news conference Monday afternoon.

Michael was a man of common sense and little risk, Meek said. Instrument training enabled him to fly in any weather conditions, but he wouldn’t take chances.

Peters said Michael’s plane received proper clearances to taxi and take off. As the plane rolled down the runway, the control tower followed protocol to notify the FAA’s radar room and the flight was detected.

Obregon said the plane was given clearance to climb from 1,900 feet to 2,300 feet, but Michael did not respond. The plane disappeared from radar about 30 seconds later.

"The wreckage site is a little violent," said Obregon, an investigator out of NTSB’s Miami office. "It impacted with some velocity. It had some forward momentum to it."

There were no signs of fire or an explosion at the crash site, Obregon said. Debris from the plane, which was made of a composite material, is scattered about 100 feet wide and 150 to 200 yards long, he said.

Obregon said he will issue a preliminary report in the next five to 10 days. The full report could take six to 18 months, he said.

Michael became president and general manager of Phadia U.S., a health technology company, in March 1996, after joining the company six years earlier. CEO Magnus Lundberg released a statement Monday: “Michael was a wonderful human being — a hard working and visionary leader and devoted father and husband. His leadership, upbeat personality, and charisma will be sorely missed.”

Drew, 23, was a senior at Ohio University in Athens. He, his mother and brother drove to Kenova on Friday. Michael flew in on Saturday for the July Fourth festivities, which included steaks, hamburgers and fireworks. Drew wanted to keep his father company on the return flight. Meek said the family’s love for one another stood out.

“You can see it in their eyes — the sparkle and how proud they are,” he said. “They’re just good people. You would just never know they have been as successful as they are.”

Friend Dennis Nevala said Michael was able to balance work and good humor well. He was a road warrior, never lost his zest and always came out smiling without harboring angst or an unwillingness to listen.

“Here’s a guy who could travel around the world, but he would circle to his family frequently because he realized, I think, the importance of balance,” Nevala said.

Michael’s love for family stretched beyond the household walls. He and his family made frequent trips to the Tri-State for Christmas and other occasions. Some visits were quick and impromptu, such as celebrating the birth of the Meeks’ latest grandchild.

“He flew in for six hours,” Alan Meek said. “That just shows you what kind of person he was. That’s how important family is.”

One of the greatest tragedies, Nevala said, was his friend of 15 years was nearing a point in life where he could slow down and enjoy the fruits of his work.

Alan Meek praised Drew, who joined with his brother and Meek’s son Friday to break up concrete for a neighbor.

“He was a young kid who was always willing to help other people,” he said.

Drew was a musician and had been studying media management at OU’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, said university spokesman George Mauzy. His Facebook profile shows Drew playing a trumpet.

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