Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Schweizer G-164B Ag Cat, N3631Z: Fatal accident occurred August 20, 2019 in Hays, Ellis County, Kansas

John F. Werth

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

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Wichita, Kansas 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Hays, KS
Accident Number: CEN19FA278
Date & Time: 08/20/2019, 0915 CDT
Registration: N3631Z
Aircraft: Grumman G164
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

On August 20, 2019, at 0915 central daylight time, a Schweizer G164-B airplane, N3631Z, impacted terrain near Hays, Kansas. The commercial pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post impact fire. The airplane was owned and operated by Werth Aerial Spraying Inc. as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 137 aerial application flight. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and the flight was not operated on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the operator's private airstrip.

The airplane was observed departing the airstrip by a family member of the pilot for the pilot's first flight of the day. The airplane was seen taking off to the east and starting a turn to the west before the witness turned away. The witness did not see the accident occur. The turn away from the airstrip was in the direction of the field to be treated, which was located west of the airstrip. The airplane's fuselage, cockpit, and inboard sections of each wing were mostly consumed by fire. The wreckage and engine were retained for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Grumman
Registration: N3631Z
Model/Series: G164 B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Werth Aerial Spraying Inc
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: WUQG

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KHYS
Observation Time: 0856 CDT
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point: 26°C / 21°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 200°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.92 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Hays, KS
Destination: Hays, KS

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 38.726111, -99.341111 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

John F. Werth, 70, Hays, died Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in an aviation accident near his home in Schoenchen.

He was born May 6, 1949 in Hays, the son of Alvin A. and Peggy (Banham) Werth.  In 1967 he graduated from St. Joseph Military Academy.  He was united in marriage to Charlene Pfannenstiel on August 9, 1969 in Antonino.  They celebrated 50 years of marriage.  He owned and operated Werth Aerial Spraying.  John was a member of the Schoenchen Third Degree Knights of Columbus Council #4166.  He enjoyed flying, fishing, boating, and barbequing.  He loved family picnics and gatherings, his cousins, his dogs, and spending time with his grandchildren especially teaching them to shoot and fish.   

Survivors include his wife; Charlene of Hays, a son; Lance Werth and wife Shonna of Johnson Lake, NE, a daughter; Lynne Boettcher and husband Chris of Benton, a brother; Gary N. Werth and wife Judy of Hays, six grandchildren; Andrea Werth, Lance Corporal Christopher Werth, Brittan Boettcher, Aidan Boettcher, Dylan Boettcher, and Addyson Boettcher, numerous cousins in the United States and England, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10:00 am on Friday, August 23, 2019 at St. Anthony Catholic Church, Schoenchen, with Fr. Joshua Werth officiating.  Burial will follow in the church cemetery.  Visitation will be from 5:00 pm until 8:00 on Thursday, and from 8:30 am until 9:30 on Friday, all at Hays Memorial Chapel Funeral Home.  A vigil service will be at 6:30 pm on Thursday at the funeral home.  Memorials are suggested to the St. Anthony Cemetery Fund or to family wishes.  Condolences and memories of John may be shared with the family at www.

Rural crop duster John Werth, 70, was killed Tuesday morning when his plane crashed shortly after taking off from his airstrip near his home northwest of Schoenchen.

Werth was headed out to spray a field of sunflowers west of his airstrip, according to his first cousin, Mike Werth, who discovered the crash and called it in.

The plane, a 1985 Grumman Ag Cat bi-wing, went down in a road ditch amongst the rolling hills of the Smoky Hill River Valley southwest of Hays a little more than a mile west of U.S. Highway 183.

The plane was upside down in a ditch on Smoky Hill River Road, just west of the intersection with 240th Road, not far from Rock Haven Spa.

The cause of the crash isn’t yet known, according to Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman, a spokesman for KHP, the law enforcement agency initially called in to investigate. The crash scene is now under control of the National Transportation Safety Board, Hileman said, and investigators are awaiting officials from the Federal Aviation Administration. Family members released the name, which was later officially reported by KHP’s Hileman.

In discovering the crash around 9:15 a.m., Mike Werth said he was heading north into Hays on 240th when he saw black smoke coming from the area of a nearby pasture. When he drove up to check he found the plane engulfed in flames. Knowing John Werth’s airstrip was just up the hill, he then called Charlene Werth, John Werth’s wife.

“I couldn’t quite make out what it was at first,” said Werth. “I saw wheels sticking up and I saw a wing, a yellow wing, and it was fully engulfed when I got there. I checked if there was any people laying on the outside, because that was the only hope, and didn’t see anybody, and I called 911 and I called Charlene.”

Werth indicated he sensed the worst.

“I knew but I didn’t want to believe it,” he said. “I told her that there was a plane crash and I told her where it’s at, and I said ‘Is Johnny at home safe?’ and she said ‘No, he went to spray sunflowers.’ I said ‘Well it’s a yellow plane’ and she said ‘well, I’ll come on down.’”

Ellis County Rural Fire responders were on the scene, along with officers from the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department, including Sheriff Ed Harbin, and state troopers.

Werth said the plane fire burned itself out.

Hileman said there were crop dusting chemicals on board the plane, and that responders from the Ellis County Rural Fire Department were dealing with those.

“I wish I coulda helped,” Mike Werth said, “but there was just no way.”

Original article can be found here ➤

A single-engine agricultural biplane crashed south of Hays Tuesday morning killing the pilot shortly after taking off from his private runway about a mile west of Schoenchen.

The pilot was identified as John Werth, 70, Schoenchen, who died in the crash according to Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman.

“At about 9:15 a.m. he took off from his runway, on his farm,” Hileman said. “Not long after that, the plane crashed into a ditch about a mile north of the end of his runway.”

The crash is near the intersection of Smoky Hill River Rd. and 240th Ave.

Smoky Hill River Rd. will remain closed from 220th Ave. to 240th Ave. through Wednesday as the accident is investigated.

A KHP pilot will lead the crash investigation until the Federal Aviation Administration arrives to determine the cause of the crash, according to Hileman.

Deputies from the Ellis County Sherrif’s office and Ellis County EMS were also assisting at the scene.

The plane was identified as an Ag Cat 1985 bi-wing spray plane and was carrying chemicals for spraying at the time off take off.

The Ellis County Fire Department was on scene and was responsible for chemical cleanup, according to Hileman.

Original article can be found here ➤

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