NTSB Releases More Information On Mentor Native's Fatal Plane Crash

James Polewchak Jr. of Mentor and his passenger, Stephen Vannais, died Jan. 5, 2011, when Polewchak's Columbia LC-41 crashed a few hundred feet from the airport

The National Transportation Safety Board has released more information on the plane crash that killed Mentor native James Polewchak Jr. and his passenger, Stephen Vannais.

The crash occurred Jan. 5, 2011. Polewchak's Columbia LC-41 crashed a few hundred feet from the Eagle's Nest Estates Airport in Midlothian, Texas, where Polewchak lived.

While the NTSB report -- which was released in August this year -- provides new information regarding the tragedy, it does not say for certain what caused the plane to crash.

  • A copy of the report has been attached to this story as a PDF.

Witnesses told the NTSB that the airplane's engine sounded normal until it was between 100 and 200 feet into the air. Then its engine stalled and dark smoke started streaming from the plane.

The plane started to turn left. Witnesses said the engine sounded as if it were trying to restart as it crashed.

The plane's propeller, parts of the fuselage and left wing collided with a row of trees first. Polewchak, 40, and 58-year-old Vannais, a work associate, both died immediately.

The report did not say what caused the engine to stall.

According to the report, the engine had black sooting on the spark plugs. And a clamp that secured the rubber hose between the left intercooler and aft intercooler induction tube was found set to a smaller diameter than the combined diameter of the tube and hose. However, nothing else was found to be unusual about the engine.

It is difficult to tell if the plane had a mechanical problem that caused it to malfunction, partly because the crash damaged the plane so severely.

For example, damage to the cockpit made it impossible to examine the plane's switch positions.

Additionally, there is no indication that a pilot error caused the crash.

Polewchak was an experienced pilot with more than 1,000 hours of flight time booked -- at least 800 of which were in the Columbia LC-41.

An autopsy showed that Polewchak had no drugs, carbon monoxide or ethanol in his system at the time of the crash.

The medical examiner did note that "(m)yocarditis may or may not have caused a cardiac event, (for example) arrhythmia, prior to the plane crash."

However, even if a cardiac event did happen, it could have been caused by the plane crash.

Polewchak graduated from Mentor High in 1988. He and his wife, Kelly Armstrong Polewchak, lived in Texas. However, many of his family members, including , and his mother still live in Ohio.

Polewchak flew for 20 years. In addition to being president of JP Technologies Inc., he used to run  Paradise Aviation, a small company that offered aerial tours of Mustang Island in Texas. However, he gave it up after he was elected in 2007 to the city council of Port Aransas, Texas.


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