A Lancaster County man and co-owner of a prominent local business was involved in a fatal plane crash late Wednesday night in a rural Virginia field outside of Charlottesville, according to officials and individuals familiar with the incident.
Kevin Esh, 30, of Lancaster, was the sole occupant of the Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six that went down over rural Virginia. Esh is one of the owners of Keystone Custom Decks in East Earl.
As of Friday afternoon, Esh’s identity had not officially been announced by investigators, but an employee at Keystone who wished not to be identified confirmed Esh was the pilot of the plane.
According to online flight logs, the Cherokee took off from Blue Ridge Regional Airport, near Martinsville, Va., around 10 p.m. on Wednesday.
The same plane flew from Smoketown Airport around 10 p.m. on Sept. 9 to the Spartansburg Downtown Memorial Airport in South Carolina and then flew to Virginia the next day.
Officials at the Smoketown Airport confirmed the plane was based at the airport and was kept outdoors on the tarmac.
According to the Virginia State Police, the crash occurred around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night when Potomac air traffic control got a distress call from a pilot, saying he was flying alone and struggling to land his single engine plane.
Air traffic control attempted to direct the pilot towards the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport for an emergency landing, but the plane was unable to make it to the airport.
The plane crashed in a wooded area near Plank Road and Stillhouse Creek Road near the village of Batesville, about 15 miles west of Charlottesville and about 20 miles away from the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport.
The plane caught on fire after the crash, and the pilot did not survive. His remains were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy, examination and positive identification.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.
The death of Esh comes on top of another tragedy for Keystone.
Crews were dispatched around 5:45 a.m. on Aug. 27 for the report of a fire at Keystone Custom Decks in the 100 block of Toddy Drive. Firefighters discovered fire coming from the roofline of the warehouse and the side of the building, saving the structure from a total loss in the two-alarm blaze.
The Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal was dispatched to the scene to investigate the cause of the blaze. The investigation is ongoing.
Michael Yoder is an award-winning journalist who has been honored with several Keystone Press Awards for his investigative pieces. He has been crafting stories for daily, weekly, and monthly publications for more than two decades in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. He has interviewed everyone from Academy Award-winners and Rock & Roll Hall of Famers to presidential hopefuls and members of Congress. Michael was born and raised in Lancaster County and joined The Lancaster Patriot in 2022.