Dexter man dies in Georgia plane crash

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ga. -- Federal aviation investigators are sifting through wreckage, seeking the cause of a plane crash that killed prominent Dexter, Mo., businessman Richard Bath -- the second Southeast Missouri businessman to die in a single-engine plane crash last week.

Bath's Beechcraft Bonanza went down late Friday night near Milledgeville, Ga., 30 miles northeast of Macon. He owned RBA Manufacturing in Malden, Mo., a clothing factory, and was the only person on board the plane.

Cliff Manlove, president of the Dexter Airport Board, said he saw Bath at a fish fry hours before the crash and is sure Bath would have taken off from Dexter, although a preliminary crash report from the Federal Aviation Administration said both the destination and city of departure are unknown.

The FAA report said Bath crashed during his third landing attempt at Baldwin County Airport near Milledgeville. Sheriff's deputies found the crash site about a quarter-mile from the airport.

Baldwin County Coroner Wayne Brooks arrived soon after deputies. He said the weather at the airport at the time of the crash was "foggy with a slight mist."

"In my nonexpert opinion, our weather conditions played a part in this, and he couldn't determine the distance," Brooks said. "When his wings hit the tops of the trees, his nose went straight down."

The Baldwin County Airport Web site lists 100-foot trees 2,200 feet from the runway among landing obstructions, but airport flight line technician Kenny Lazarus said Bath was a regular airport user.

"He just comes in every now and then," Lazarus said.

Jerry Davis of Cape Girardeau, who owned the McDonald's restaurant in Dexter and 12 others across the region, and his flight instructor crashed in a Beechcraft Bonanza Wednesday, apparently trying to land at the airport in Sparta, Ill. Aviation officials blamed weather in that accident, too. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board could file a final report in the next two months.

FAA and NTSB officials gathered up the pieces of Bath's plane Saturday.

Manlove said he was surprised Bath, an experienced pilot who used the Dexter airport regularly for business purposes, would fly in foggy weather.

"He's been flying at least 10 or 12 years," Manlove said.

Bath's body is at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Macon awaiting positive identification.

Funeral plans are unannounced at this time.

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