By Mark Ylen
A well-known ultralight pilot and local handyman along with a close friend of Albany Mayor Alex Johnson II were killed when their aircraft crashed into a field in Millersburg on Friday evening.
Charles “Chuck” Kizer, 57, was piloting the ultralight when witnesses said it went into a steep dive and crashed into a cut grass seed field south of Deciduous Avenue. Kizer and his passenger, Matthew Irish, 49, were both pronounced dead at the scene shortly after first responders arrived at about 8:52 p.m., said the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
“We lost two great people,” Mayor Johnson said. “I hope the community embraces, hugs and wraps the family in their love.”
Johnson said he became quick friends with Irish after meeting him at a social event 8 years ago.
“He was a great man,” Johnson said. “I loved him dearly, I am going to miss him.”
Irish and Kizer’s wives were former business partners who until recently co-owned an adult care facility, Johnson said. Over the years he was able to get to know both of the men.
Elizabeth Irish, Matt’s wife, was Mayor Johnson’s campaign manager. Matthew Irish officiated high school football for a couple of seasons with Johnson.
Both Kizer and his wife, Jennifer, have been active in community service in Albany. Kizer was on the Airport Advisory committee and Jensifer is a member of the Albany Planning Commission.
“Chuck was a community servant,” summed up Johnson.
Friday evening Johnson was called to be with the family at the Irish’s Millersburg home after the accident.
The crash happened within 200 yards of the Irish’s home. “Elizabeth witnessed the crash,” Johnson said.
Also witnessing the crash were the Andersen family who were walking in their neighborhood on Sedona Road when they saw the blue and white aircraft fly over them heading east to west.
“We were on a walk,” said John Andersen, Millersburg resident and executive director of the Albany Girls & Boys Club. “My kids saw the hang glider flying overhead so they were waving at that person.”
“As they were making a turn all we heard was this decline,” Andersen said. “And we heard a loud thud.”
Andersen and his wife sprinted to the corner of Sonora Drive and Woods Road, where Andersen’s wife ran across the street and several hundred yards through the harvested grass seed field to render aid while Andersen stayed with his children and called 911.
A witness standing across the street from the Andersen family said she saw the craft plunge nose first into the ground. It crashed in the field between high tension power lines to the south and a housing development to the north.
Albany and Jefferson Fire Departments and the Linn County Sheriff’s office responded to the scene.
By mid-morning Saturday investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board with the assistance of Linn County Sheriff’s deputies combed through the wreckage taking photos and examining portions of the aircraft. The ultralight came to rest with its wheels up 400 feet from the end of Barker Street in the Wood Estate subdivision.
Visible on the ultralight’s crumpled wing were the words Mustang 3-15. A web search indicates that the Mustang 3-15 is an ultralight aircraft manufactured by North Wing in East Wenatchee, Washington. No word was available on possible causes for the crash.
Kizer also operated Handyman Xtreme, a business that specializes in decks, fences, pavers and yard maintenance, according to his Facebook page.