An area business man is dead after a twin-engine Cessna 421 he was piloting from Houston to Tulsa crashed Monday night.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft about 9:30 p.m., about 45 minutes after it had taken off from West Houston Airport. It was enroute to Tulsa Riverside Airport.
Officials have identified the victim as 64-year-old Tom Steeper.
FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford says in a news release that the aircraft had been trying to avoid weather near Cherokee County in East Texas when it vanished from radar.
Searchers discovered the aircraft's wreckage in a field near Wells, Texas, about 160 miles north of Houston.
Steeper's daughter, Tia Kizer, says her father was returning from a business trip in Houston, a trip she says he's taken many times over the years.
Steeper's death also impacts his pilot friends, including Dan Howard.
Howard has a hangar near Steeper's at Riverside Airport. The two grew to know each other over the last 10 years.
"He was an excellent pilot and had been flying for a long time and it sure is a shame that this happened," said Howard.
Howard describes Steeper as a nice and friendly guy.
"He was always helpful if I needed a helping hand," said Howard, who last spoke to Steeper about two weeks ago.
Howard said he has lost several aviation friends through the years and said it does not get any easier.
Lunsford said FAA investigators will join National Transportation Safety Board officials to probe the cause of the crash.
Copyright AP Modified, Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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