A winter resident and frequent visitor to the Cayman Islands died Friday in a plane crash over Sharonville, Ohio, a north-eastern suburb of Cincinnati.
US aviation investigators believe two private planes, a Beechcraft Bonanza and a Cessna Skyhawk, collided in mid-air and then crashed about a mile apart from one another.
Officials identified the pilot of the Beechcraft as 64-year-old Niels Harpsoe, a resident of West Chester, Ohio. Two men in the Cessna also died in the accident.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mr. Harpsoe’s plane was seen plummeting from the sky by rush hour drivers. It crashed in the middle of a road, but the newspaper reported there was no damage to any of the surrounding homes…not even a broken tree limb or mailbox.
Mr. Harpsoe was an engineer who owned a small nickel-plating business in Madisonville, Ohio.
He was known to spend the winter with his wife Donna in the Cayman Islands at the couple’s townhouse in Cayman Kai, and according to a friend he was due to come back next week for a visit.
‘He was a larger-than-life character,’ Old Man Bay resident John Macfarlane said. ‘He was a very out-going kind of person.’
‘It’s a huge loss, tragic really,’ said B.A. Greene, who’s known Mr. Harpsoe and his wife for more than a decade. ‘Everyone knew them. They (always) had a huge grin on their faces.’
Mrs. Greene said people on the North Side knew Mr. Harpsoe as the Conch Fritter man who attended her husband McCurley’s birthday party every year.
‘He’s the person everyone was waiting for,’ she said. ‘He’d bring in a tray of 150 fritters and whisper to me, ‘they’ll be gone in 11 minutes.”
Warren Cayasso, who manages the Red Sail Sports dive operation at Rum Point, said he was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mr. Harpsoe.
‘I was just hoping it wasn’t him,’ Mr. Cayasso said. ‘He was a great guy.’
Mr. Cayasso described Mr. Harpsoe as a diving enthusiast who would often offer his engineering expertise and tool chest if a boat needed repairs.
He also described Mr. Harpsoe as an adventurous man.
‘I climbed a coconut tree for him one day and picked some coconuts,’ Mr. Cayasso said. ‘He was like, where did you learn this? He was telling me one day he would go to Nicaragua with me to find out who trained (me), and said he’s going to end up climbing a coconut tree to show me he could do it.’
‘He loved this place so much.’
US investigators were still trying to determine what caused the rare mid-air collision between the two aircraft in Ohio Friday.
The two men in the Cessna were identified as 65-year-old Edward Hitchens and 31-year-old David Woeste Jr., both of Cincinnati, Ohio.