SCOTT CITY One of four family members killed Friday in a plane crash north of Topeka is being remembered as an up-and-coming leader in Scott City, where he was a Scott County commissioner and member of several community boards.
Dylan Spencer, 35, of Scott City, was piloting a small plane when it crashed into a muddy field three miles north of Topeka. His wife, Amy, 34, and their two daughters, 7-year-old Chase and 5-year-old Ansley, also died in the crash. They were on their way to visit Amy Spencer’s family near Topeka to celebrate Easter.
On Kansas Highway 4, near the dirt road leading to the crash site, four crosses — two with stuffed Easter bunnies — memorialized the Spencer family.
“He was a young person that was very active in the community,” Larry Hoeme, a Scott County commissioner, said of Dylan Spencer. “He is one that will be missed for years to come. He was one of the young leaders of the community. It’s devastating.”
Dylan Spencer spent more than three years as a member of the Scott City Commission and also was on the county economic development board and Scott City Municipal Airport board. Amy Spencer was a special education teacher in Scott City.
The Garden City Telegram reports that Dylan Spencer, who ran Spencer Pest Control, became involved in city and county government at a young age.
“The community has lost a tremendous asset with Dylan and his family,” Hoeme said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig said Friday that based on a witness’ account, he believed the plane’s motor sputtered and then cut off before the crash. The plane left a long trail of debris in conditions so sloppy that emergency crews initially had trouble reaching the wreckage.
The plane was a Beechcraft Baron 58, tail number N580EA. According to data from the NTSB, that particular model has been involved in six crashes since 1977. Friday's incident was the first plane crash in Kansas this year. There were 20 plane accidents in the state last year — five of them fatal — including a July crash in Perry that killed two people.
Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, told The Associated Press on Saturday that preliminary indications are that both engines were producing power at the time of impact.
“There was no distress call,” Knudson said. “The pilot was in contact with air traffic control. The aircraft struck the ground in a left-wing, nose-low attitude at a high velocity and cartwheeled. That created an impact crater 21 feet long, and the entire debris field was 370 feet long by 100 feet wide.”
He said the engines ended up 4 to 5 feet below ground.
Weather conditions around Topeka were cool and damp, but there were no severe storms in the area when the plane went down.
At a news conference Saturday near the crash site, Timothy LeBaron, senior air safety investigator with the NTSB, said investigators spent Saturday collecting wreckage. A representative from Hawker Beechcraft was also expected to arrive Saturday evening to assist with the investigation.
A preliminary report should be available in about five days, but LeBaron said a complete report, and a definitive answer as to what caused the crash, may not be available for up to a year.
Reaction in the small, western Kansas farming community where the Spencers lived was swift as news of the tragedy unfolded heading into the weekend.
“I learned the news an hour ago,” Rep. Don Hineman of Dighton said late Friday. “I’ve known the family all my life. Dylan was a very, very ambitious and hard-working young man. Amy was involved in education. It’s just a tragedy.”
Jack Frick, also a Scott County commissioner, said Dylan Spencer was a strong businessman and great leader. He said the family was well-known throughout the community and were avid Kansas State fans.
Don Wells, superintendent in the Scott County School District, said Amy Spencer was a wonderful teacher.
“She had wonderful energy,” Wells said. “She was devoted to her students. She worked hard at it. Many times you’d find her sitting on the floor with her young students. We’ll miss her being around.”
Lane County farmer Vance Ehmke, who was a customer of Dylan Spencer’s business, said Spencer frequently visited his farm. Ehmke said Dylan Spencer had a “sense of ethics that made our generation feel good about turning things over to his generation.”
“Our family has known his parents, as well as Dylan and his family, forever,” Ehmke said. “We have the highest respect for them all. We are just crushed to hear of these deaths. Having kids of our own the same age as Dylan and his wife, it’s easy to put ourselves in Richard and Robin Spencer’s shoes. The last thing any parent wants to do is bury their children.”