Witness says paraglider engine seemed to stall or quit prior to fatal crash

PENNSBORO, W.Va. — An experienced pilot is dead after his aircraft went down in a remote wooded area Monday evening near a private air strip in Ritchie County. The Ritchie County Sheriff”s Department identified the deceased operator as Doit Koppler, 80, of New Milton, West Virginia.

“According to the airstrip owner who knew him and the FAA who pulled his flight record Mr. Koppler was an experienced pilot,” said Ritchie County Sheriff’s Deputy J.C. Egan. “He had several ratings on multiple aircraft and several decades of flight experience.”

Deputy Egan was called to the airstrip outside of Pennsboro around 7:30 p.m. Monday. There he found the air strip owner and Koppler’s wife.

“The wife reported Mr. Koppler had taken off from the air strip and was headed north. He was banking left and during the bank she noted she thought the engine had quit or cut out,” Egan explained. “Shortly after that the aircraft descended down into the wood line.”

Members of the Pennsboro and Ellenboro Volunteer Fire Departments along with the Ritchie County EMS arrived on scene and formed a search party to look for the downed aircraft. It was discovered a short time after the search began about 30 yards into the woods just to the north of the air strip.

“The pilot was lying on the ground under the aircraft which was suspended about 30 to 40 feet up in a tree,” Egan said. “The pilot was pronounced dead on the scene.”

Investigative teams from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, along with the Ritchie County Sheriff’s Department are all involved in the investigation.

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