Couple who died in plane crash were experienced pilots

November 28, 2023

Randy Strebig and Allison Wheaton.

Couple who died in plane crash were experienced pilots

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

The victims of Sunday’s fatal airplane crash were both experienced pilots who attended multiple fly-in events. Randy Strebig, 60, and Allison Wheaton, 43, died after their plane crashed north of the Mason County Airport Sunday morning. The Indiana couple had been together for 17 years and were members of the board of directors of the International Seaplane Fly-In held annually in Greenville, Maine.

Multiple posts have appeared on Facebook remembering the couple and their generosity. According to Wheaton’s Facebook page, they lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana and were married in September of this year.

Both Strebig and Wheaton were pilots and met at a fly-in 18 years ago. According to the Federal Aviation Administration the plane that was involved in Sunday’s crash was a single-engine Socata TBM-700. They had been in Mason County visiting friends and were heading from Ludington to Angola, Indiana, just north of Fort Wayne.

Strebig was the founder of Strebig Construction in Fort Wayne, a residential remodeling, roofing and concrete business.

Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole stated the plane took off on the Mason County Airport’s northeast runway 8 Sunday morning about 10 a.m. It then veered to the north, crashing in the field. The plane was fully engulfed in flames when the first emergency units arrived.

The crash site is in a 10 acre field, surrounded by woods, a few hundred yards west of Meyers Road north of the Mason County Airport.

Michigan State Police, which is the lead law enforcement agency investigating, reported Sunday afternoon that the FAA was on scene investigating and representatives from the National Transportation Safety Bureau were expected to arrive Monday. As of Tuesday morning, the plane remains on scene but is expected to be moved to a secured location.

“We are shocked and devastated at the loss of Allison Wheaton and Randy Strebig yesterday in Michigan,” stated a post on the Seaplane Fly-In Facebook page. “Randy and Allison sat on our Board of Directors and were irreplaceable members of our fly-in community. They were known for, among many things, their beautiful Maule which they flew out to Greenville each year from their home in Indiana; and often in the opposite direction, to Seattle. Always on straight floats. They were also known for being kind, compassionate, and charitable individuals who were always willing to jump in at a moment’s notice to get things done.

“Randy and Allison met at Sun N Fun 18 years ago, she was working at Kenmore Air and had come to Florida to help her former employer Jack Brown’s during the event. At the time Randy was just making headway with the Indiana Seaplane Pilot’s Association, having opened up several new waterways to seaplane access throughout the state.

Investigators on scene of the crash Monday.

Randy left a note in her backpack that she didn’t find until she was back in Seattle, inviting her to visit him in Indiana. The rest is history.

This past September, after 17 years together, the couple were married in a surprise ceremony at their own seaplane splash-in hosted in Indiana.

“Randy and Allison will forever be remembered as selfless community members and talented aviators, passionate about every project and cause they took on. Blue skies and tailwinds to our dear friends.”

Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene at 10:01 a.m. Sunday. Mason-Oceana 911 initially reported the center had received an iPhone notification of a crash. The incident was initially dispatched as a car crash until the 911 center received notification that it was a plane crash.

Weather conditions about the time of the crash were 95 percent cloud cover with less than one mile visibility, snowing, with winds 7 mph west-southwest with gusts up to 16 mph. Temperature was 33 degrees.

The last plane crash to occur in Mason County was in January of this year when the front landing gear of a small plane gave out upon landing, causing the airplane’s nose to make contact with the runway. There were no injuries as a result of that crash. The last fatal plane crash to occur in Mason County happened in July 2010 when a plane carrying five people crashed into Lake Michigan near Big Sable Point resulting in the death of four people.

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