NEW ELLENTON, S.C. - An Aiken man who died after his plane crashed into a wooded area Saturday morning had altered his aircraft minutes before taking off, another pilot said Sunday.
Roger Roemmich, 58, of Indian Creek Trail, was participating in a memorial fly-in for the late owner of Sizemore Airfield off Talatha Church Road near Aiken when the plane he built from a kit fell about 400 feet in a tailspin, said Gary Waggoner, president of the CSRA Light Flyers Club.
New Ellenton volunteer firefighters pulled Mr. Roemmich from the mangled wreckage in a wooded area near Sizemore Airfield. He was taken by ambulance to Aiken Mall, where a helicopter airlifted him to Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, officials said.
Mr. Roemmich was pronounced dead at the hospital, Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend said. An autopsy showed the cause of death was multiple blunt trauma, she said.
The cause of the crash still is under investigation.
The plane he was flying - a T-Bird - recently had been assembled and was working properly until he modified the instruments Saturday morning, Mr. Waggoner said.
"We photographed the controls in the plane to make clear the modifications he did," he said.
Mr. Roemmich had been in the 55-member flying club for a few years. He was the first member of the group to be killed in a decade, the club's president said.
"Roger loved flying," Mr. Waggoner said. "He was very inventive, and liked to make changes to his plane."
There are strict operating limitations, but no mandatory license or registration is needed to fly ultralight airplanes.
Mr. Waggoner said he recalled three other minor scares Mr. Roemmich had had because of plane modifications.
"It was a very well-made aluminum aircraft," Mr. Waggoner said. "They are very stable planes."
Another experimental aircraft crash killed a man this year in Augusta. Mark Thompson, 48, of Evans, died Jan. 14 when his single-engine plane crashed near Bouliveau Road shortly after takeoff from Pea Patch Airfield in south Augusta.
Funeral services for Mr. Roemmich will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Aiken. His family will receive friends from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Stephen D. Posey Funeral Home in North Augusta.
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.