The person killed in a Scappoose gyrocopter crash Saturday afternoon was a Kalama man who leaves behind a wife and eight children.
Scappoose police said James LaFayette, 59, died at the scene of the crash, just southwest of the Scappoose Industrial Airpark.
LaFayette had been practicing landings and take-offs at the airport, but the cause of the crash remains under federal investigation. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, LaFayette was a student pilot at the time of the crash. Part of the investigation will be whether he had enough training to be up in the one-seat aircraft alone, but at this point that hasn’t been determined, said aviation accident investigator Eliott Simpson.
The gyrocopter — a hybrid between a light plane and helicopter that can fly forward as well as lift straight up — has been recovered and stored in an airport hanger. It will be inspected by federal officials, who expect to release a preliminary report next week. A final report is expected in about six months.
NTSB officials would like to hear from any eyewitnesses to the crash. Anyone who saw the crash can contact federal authorities by emailing email@example.com, he said.
LaFayette’s gyrocopter was built by Sport Copter, Inc., a Scappose-based company located at the airpark, but he’d purchased it used from another owner, according to company president Jim Vanek. He said a pilot’s license and permission to solo from an instructor — not a student pilot certificate — would be needed to maneuver the machine.
Proof of a pilot’s license is not required to fly at the small, towerless airpark located at the Port of St. Helens, said Craig Allison, operations manager of the port.
Bystanders pulled LaFayette out of the burning gyrocopter after the crash, but he did not survive. The crash set off a quarter-acre fire in the field which was extinguished without incident, according to the Scappoose Fire District
LaFayette was an electrician at the Bennu glass plant in Kalama and leaves behind his wife, Molly, and their eight children, according to the Oregonian newspaper. Molly LaFayette told the newspaper her husband was pursuing a lifelong dream to fly.