Two Midairs, A Continent Apart

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There are some startling coincidences in two midair collisions that occurred one day and 2,000 miles apart last week. The collisions occurred in Tehachapi, Calif., on Friday and Clearwater, Fla. on Saturday. In each case, a light twin and a single came together and in each accident the twin pilot was able to maintain control and land safely while the single did not. Pilots of both singles died. In the California crash, a Beech Baron flown by Robert Hollis Gates, of Bear Valley Springs, was in collision with a Cessna 180 flown by David Aaron Lazerson. The 180 fell out of control into a mountainside but Gates, whose airplane was missing a big piece of the cockpit, was able to put the plane down on a small private strip. He suffered minor injuries. In the Florida accident, a Twin Commanche, owned by John Collins, of Winter Haven, was trying to land at Clearwater Airpark when it came in contact with a Cessna 150 that was taking off. The 150 crashed about 20 feet from a group of parents and children in a playground and the pilot, 79-year-old Bela Toth, died at the scene. The pilot of the Comanche was able to land at Clearwater and he and a passenger walked away apparently unharmed. There was damage to the twin's right wingtip.