Photo by Jay Huff
The uprighted plane in hanger, Monday
Jim Ross, the Director of Information Systems for the city of North Platte, was killed in an airplane at the Gothenburg airport Sunday morning as he was coming in for a landing. Ross, 55, was killed in the crash just 50 yards east of the runway. He was evidently preparing to land his plane, a two-seat Cessna 150.
Gothenburg Police Chief Randy Olson said officers and volunteer fire and rescuers were called to the airport shortly after 10:30 a.m. by airport officials. When they arrived, they found the Cessna lying upside down.
An autopsy was ordered. Gothenburg police secured the scene until investigators for two federal agencies -- the Federal Aeronautics Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board -- arrived.
Investigators told the Bulletin that they suspect a health issue such as a heart attack was the cause, not pilot error or mechanical failure.
Gothenburg airport manager Dennis Brown said Ross was qualified to fly solo and was far from a rookie.
Brown said Ross had flown more than 50 times with a certified pilot as part of his training. He had not had any problems.
“He was qualified to fly alone," Brown said. "Everything went perfect when I flew with him. He was a former Marine Corps pilot, but the military does not license pilots so he had been going through the steps to get his private license.”
Ross spent 20 years in the Marine Corps. Friends and family described him as a tough, fair man who was honest to a fault.
City officials said Ross will be greatly missed.
Mayor Marc Kaschke said he heard about the tragedy with a heavy heart.
"He was a valued employee who played a critical role in the day-to-day operations of the city," Kaschke said. "His dedication and enthusiasm will be greatly missed.
City Administrator Jim Hawks said Ross was a great guy, always willing to help out.
"He was one of those people who are great to have in your organization," Hawks said. "He was very knowledgeable, always willing to pitch in and make sure everything was up and running. I thought the world of him."
Hawks said the Ross worked late Friday to help the fire department resolve a computer problem.
"He would come in early or stay late to make sure things we needed were working," Hawks said. "That was the way he was."
Ross began working for the city in August 2000. He also supervised the county's computers under an inter-local agreement between the city and county.
Hawks said three employees in the IT department will cover the bases until a replacement can be found.
Both Hawks and Kaschke said their thoughts and prayers are with his family.