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Thursday, July 23, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Plane Crash Kills 73-Year-Old Pilot Near Kingston -- Single-Engine Craft Sinks In Sound

Investigators were continuing today to try to find the cause of the airplane crash that took the life of a White Center-area man yesterday near Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Gustav Tommos, 73, was killed when the single-engine Cessna 172 plunged into Puget Sound about 200 yards offshore from Apple Cove Point near Kingston shortly before 11 a.m., authorities said.

The aircraft was the property of the Boeing Employees Flying Club, according to Mike Stockhill, supervisor for the Northwest region of the National Transportation Safety Board, which will be investigating the crash.

Tommos took off at 9:15 a.m. yesterday from the Renton Airport in drizzly weather, apparently for a local flight.

A witness to the crash, Ward Bush of Edmonds, said he had just netted a 5-pound silver salmon "when I looked up and saw a plane come down at a 45-degree angle and hit the water."

Bush said he was about 100 yards from where the plane hit the water. The weather was foggy with perhaps a quarter-mile visibility, he said.

One of the plane's wings hit the water, Bush said, and the plane "cart-wheeled into the water . . . nose-dived and basically stopped immediately."

Another witness, Scott Fladgard, was working on a house he's building on the beach near Kingston when he saw the plane and heard it crash. "It was a sick sound . . . just a big thump," he said.

Fladgard said he had seen the plane flying low, perhaps at 200 feet, when it flew over him west to east before it turned north and crashed. Fladgard also said visibility was poor.

Bush said he and several other boaters and fishermen rushed to the crash site, but the plane already had sunk. "I was there in probably 20 seconds," Bush said. "Unfortunately the plane went down in 12 seconds. It just sunk like a rock.

"I just had a hopeless feeling. If the plane had floated for another 45 seconds, I might have had a chance to save someone."

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Wilson of the Naval Submarine Base in Bangor said two naval divers came at the request of the Coast Guard and found Tommos' plane in about 60 feet of water.

The seatbelts in the other seats were cinched tight, indicating no one else was in the aircraft, Wilson said. Tommos was taken by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Stockhill said there was no indication yesterday afternoon of what may have caused the crash.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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