Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bad luck, irony and perseverance: Akron business survives plane crash, criminal attack with a front-end loader and a fire

J. Bowers Constuction president Sean Bowers stands for a portrait at J. Bowers former building on Mogadore Road. Late last year, two career criminals caused about $1 million damage to the Mogadore Road business. Just as they were about to move back into the building, it caught on fire. The cause is currently under investigation.

This is a story of bad luck, irony and perseverance.

It starts with an omen: On Nov. 10, 2015, a corporate jet trying to land at Akron Fulton International Airport crashed in Ellet, killing nine people on board.

J. Bowers Construction, through its security cameras, witnessed the nearby tragedy, capturing images of the plane hitting an apartment building a couple of blocks away, followed by a puff of smoke.

Eleven days later, on Nov. 21, destruction visited J. Bowers.

Authorities say two career criminals went on a crime spree through Ellet and used a stolen front-end loader from another business to tear through the two-story walls of J. Bowers’ Mogadore Road business, causing more than $1 million in damages to the building before making off with the company safe.

And Tuesday, more than a year later, as J. Bowers was preparing to move back into its reconstructed building, there was a fire.

Sean Bowers, the third generation of Bowers to lead the company of 40 or 50 workers, said the blaze caused another $1 million in damages and will likely keep the company from returning to its home for at least another eight months.

Investigation into the fire is ongoing, Bowers said, but he suspects something electrical is probably to blame.

“It’s been a crazy couple of years,” Bowers said Thursday, speaking from his temporary business home in part of a funeral parlor in Mogadore.

Hopefully, the bad luck part of the story ends there.

The irony is this: J. Bowers’ business is fire (and water) damage restoration.

On Wednesday — the same day J. Bowers workers erected a fence to protect the Tallmadge Avenue house that burned earlier this month, killing four people — J. Bowers employees put up a fence around their own charred Mogadore Road business.

On Thursday, Bowers persevered.

“It’s back to business as usual,” he said.

When the front-end loader destroyed the business, Bowers leased a portion of Hopkins Lawver Funeral Home, which remains open on South Cleveland Avenue. To make the dim, open space work, Bowers built walls creating individual offices, installed office lighting and put in new doors and locks.

Now, with the landlord’s permission, J. Bowers will stay put until the company’s building is rebuilt again. “If we didn’t have such a great crew of employees here, this would have been a whole lot tougher,” Bowers said. “They’re phenomenal.”

Crime spree

Meanwhile, the two men who Akron police say caused the front-end loader damage last year, are in Ohio prisons.

Ryan Keith Benton, 45, was sent to Belmont Correctional Institution in June for four years, convicted of safe-cracking, breaking and entering and other felonies connected to J. Bowers.

David Cogar, 47, was sent to Richland Correctional Institution in September for four years, convicted of safe-cracking, breaking and entering and other felonies in an unrelated crime out of Ashland County that also involved a front-end loader.

Ashland County Prosecutor Christopher Tunnell said Cogar broke into the side door of a bar and clubhouse at the Rolling Acres golf course in Ashland County on Dec. 1, 2015, less than two weeks after the front-end loader damage at J. Bowers.

Surveillance footage shows Cogar spent about three hours inside the golf course bar, first breaking into the cash register, then trying to use a blow torch to open a safe, Tunnell said. When the torch wouldn’t work, Cogar used a bar to pry a safe off the ground and then dragged it, a 12-pack of Busch beer, some beef jerky and a few bags of chips to the door.

Apparently unable to lift the safe, Cogar commandeered a farm tractor from a golf course shed, drove it to the door of the bar and filled the front-end loader with the safe and other loot, transferring it to his car.

It’s unclear what was in the safe. No damage was done to the buildings in the Ashland case, Tunnell said.

Both the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office and Akron Police Department had warrants out for Cogar this year from the separate criminal cases. When authorities picked Cogar up in Tennessee, he was sent back to Ashland County.

When he’s released from prison, authorities here could pursue an indictment against Cogar in the case of J. Bowers.

Story and photo gallery:

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Aviation Accident Final Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:

Docket And Docket Items -  National Transportation Safety Board:

NTSB Identification: CEN16MA036
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Tuesday, November 10, 2015 in Akron, OH
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/24/2016
Aircraft: BRITISH AEROSPACE HS 125 700A, registration: N237WR
Injuries: 9 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The Safety Board's full report is available at The Aircraft Accident Report number is NTSB/AAR-16/03.

On November 10, 2015, about 1453 eastern standard time (EST), Execuflight flight 1526, a British Aerospace HS 125-700A (Hawker 700A), N237WR, departed controlled flight while on a nonprecision localizer approach to runway 25 at Akron Fulton International Airport (AKR) and impacted a four-unit apartment building in Akron, Ohio. The captain, first officer, and seven passengers died; no one on the ground was injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The airplane was registered to Rais Group International NC LLC and operated by Execuflight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135 as an on-demand charter flight. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed, and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan was filed. The flight departed from Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport (MGY), Dayton, Ohio, about 1413 and was destined for AKR.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The flight crew's mismanagement of the approach and multiple deviations from company standard operating procedures, which placed the airplane in an unsafe situation and led to an unstabilized approach, a descent below minimum descent altitude without visual contact with the runway environment, and an aerodynamic stall. Contributing to the accident were Execuflight's casual attitude toward compliance with standards; its inadequate hiring, training, and operational oversight of the flight crew; the company's lack of a formal safety program; and the Federal Aviation Administration's insufficient oversight of the company's training program and flight operations.

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