Maplewood graduate dies in plane crash

Was manager of Amelia Earhart airport in Atchison, Kansas

Root Bethany

ATCHISON, Kansas — Bethany Root, a 2001 Maplewood High School graduate who was an aerial application pilot, was killed Sunday morning in a plane crash about 60 miles northwest of Kansas City in Atchison County, Kansas.

The Kansas City Star reports the crash of the P-51 Mustang, which was a World War II-era plane, killed Root, who was a passenger, and longtime pilot Vlado Lenoch, 64, of Burr Ridge, Ill.

Reports indicate the plane crashed around 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Lt. Bryce Whelply of the Kansas Highway Patrol says the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately clear. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to arrive on the scene this morning.

Root was general manager of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport in Atchison where the Amelia Earhart Festival was held Saturday. The plane crashed about nine miles away from the airport in a field about 2 1/2 miles northeast of Cummings, Kansas.

The single propeller of the plane and wreckage of the crash were strewn across a small hill, reports state.

Root also worked as a crop duster, only one of three women in the trade in the United States.

In a recent interview with the Tribune Chronicle, Root said she followed a love of flying to the St. Joseph, Mo., area three years ago and worked for the airport’s management company. She had been a special education teacher in inner city charter schools in Indianapolis and ran a custom motorcycle shop in Indianapolis until she took an opportunity to learn to fly and work with the McElwain crop dusters in Kansas and Missouri.

Root held an interest in McElwain Ag Sprayers, a third-generation agricultural business flying out of Wathena, Kansas, in the northeastern corner of the state and across the Missouri River from St. Joseph. It was her fourth year buzzing pastures, fields and crops with seeds, fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides.

She recently added the job of fixed-based operator of the Amelia Earhart Airport just outside of Atchison, Kansas, a river town of 11,000 people.

Root kept herself busy in her Maplewood High School days with everything from student body president to running on cross country and track teams, to taking the stage in the drama club.

She had told the Tribune Chronicle: “I’m very fortunate to have gone to Maplewood High School. The educational opportunities that they provide there and the teachers they had helped prepare me for what I’m doing now and I can’t say thank you enough to all of them. It really was a good school.”

Lenoch had performed in the festival the day before in his vintage aircraft.

The annual festival, held in Atchison, celebrates the famed pilot Earhart, who was born in Atchison, and is the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart and her plane disappeared July 2, 1937, over the central Pacific Ocean during an attempt to fly around the globe.

news@tribtoday.com

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