Pilot dies week after Columbus plane crash

Plane crashed into home last week

INDIANAPOLIS - An 81-year-old man who was piloting a plane that crashed last week into a Columbus home has died.

Wishard Memorial Hospital officials confirmed Saturday morning the death of Gerald Clayton, who had been in the hospital's burn center since the July 25 crash.

Dennis King, 60, was also in the plane at the time of the crash. He remains hospitalized in good condition.

King told investigators that the home-built plane was having engine problems before it crashed. Clayton had been unable to talk to investigators because of the extent of his injuries.

Friends of Clayton told RTV6 Saturday that he had been planning to sell the plane. He was flying that day to run diagnostic tests, taking a planned 10-minute trip around the airport to make sure everything worked OK.

Clayton, an Air Force veteran, volunteered at the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, where he gave tours.

"Whatever needed to be done, Gerry would jump in and help," said Gordon Lake. "He is one of those kind of guys, you never heard a harsh word out of his mouth. His kindness around here was legendary."

Tom Vickers said Clayton stepped in to help him to and from the doctor after he suffered a stroke.

"Gerry was the kind of guy you would like to have as your best friend," Vickers said.

Friends said Clayton knew what he was doing in the air.

"It's not because he didn't have experience in the cockpit. Something tragically happened to the engine or propeller or something," Lake said.

Clayton spent nearly 10 years building the plane that crashed. He had just finished writing a book about himself and his history for his family, an autobiography that friends said has provided a sense of comfort following his death.

Federal investigators said it will take time to reach a definitive conclusion about what caused the crash.

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