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Crash kills Santa Paula pilot at aerobatics competition in England [Updated]

August 22, 2009 |  5:15 pm


A Santa Paula woman who was a top aerobatics pilot for the U.S. national team was killed Saturday when her plane crashed during an international aerobatics competition in central England, fellow pilots said.

Vicki Cruse, 40, was entering into a maneuver with her Edge 540 plane during the third day of competitions when she appeared unable to recover control and crashed nose-first into the ground around noon, U.S. team manager Norm DeWitt said by phone from England.

DeWitt said a mechanical failure in the plane appeared to have caused the accident, which occurred at a racing circuit in Northamptonshire, about 70 miles northwest of London. British police told the Associated Press that accident investigators were looking into the cause of the crash.

Cruse, president of the International Aerobatic Club, was one of two women on the 18-member U.S. national team at the competition, and a 2007 national champion.

[Corrected, 7:10pm:  The U.S. national team has eight members, not 18.]

“She was loved by everybody in the sport, she will be greatly missed by all who knew her,” DeWitt said.

Aerobatics is a sport where pilots fly a series of programs and are judged by a panel for precision and technique in their maneuvers. The world championships are held every two years and draw pilots from around the world.

-- Victoria Kim

Photo: Vicki Cruse in 2003. Credit: Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times