Owen Co. native dies in plane crash

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By John Whitlock

An Owen County native and author was killed in a single-engine plane crash in Indiana Monday.

Dr. Henry Shirmer Riley, 81, of Hanover, Ind., died when the Piper Comanche 250 airplane he was flying crashed.

According to Indiana State Police, witnesses said the plane crashed in a field off Rector Road and State Road 250 in western Jefferson County in Indiana.

When emergency crews arrived on the scene, they discovered the wreckage and deceased victim.

Police said the plane impacted with such force, it was initially impossible to determine the type of aircraft and the complete tail number.

According to records, Riley left the Madison, Ind., Municipal Airport at approximately 11:30 a.m. Monday in his plane.

Approximately eight minutes later, the first 911 calls were received reporting the downed aircraft.

A witness told Indiana police that the aircraft appeared to be climbing when it banked steeply, appeared to invert and then drove straight into the ground.

Police said it’s not possible to determine if the crash was the result of a failure with the aircraft, pilot error or other issues such as a medical emergency with the pilot that caused loss of control at this time.

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to investigate the crash, but it could be months before an official cause is released.

Riley, a retired medical doctor, grew up in Wheatley and graduated from New Liberty High School.

Riley, along with his co-writer, James L. Pirtle, recently released “Two Pilots – One Engine,” a book about their adventures during an around the world flight they took together in 1986.

The funeral services for Riley will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the Trinity United Methodist Church, 412 West Main St., Madison, Ind. Visitation will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the church.

The Morgan & Nay Funeral Home of Madison, Ind., is in charge of all arrangements.