Toddler aboard charity flight dies in Iowa crash

/ Source: The Associated Press

A plane crash in Iowa City claimed the life of a Georgia toddler who was being flown home after medical treatment for clubfoot.

Two-year-old Sydney Blanton, of Thomasville, Ga., was aboard the flight arranged by Angel Flight Central Inc., an organization that provides free travel for individuals in need of health care. Her grandfather, Alan Harden, also of Thomasville, confirmed Wednesday that she died from injuries she sustained in the crash.

Blanton was in Iowa City to be treated for clubfoot, a condition in which the foot is turned in sharply so that a person seems to be walking on an ankle.

She had been undergoing treatment at University of Iowa Hospitals for more than two years, Harden said. Doctors were treating her with a technique that uses foot manipulation and casting, not surgery, to correct the deformity.

On the most recent trip, doctors were trying to repair a ligament that was tightening up, Harden said.

Harden said his granddaughter, who would have turned 3 next month, had responded well to the treatment.

"She could run and walk and if you'd ever see her out playing, you'd never know she had any problems," he said.

Doomed flight
The single-engine plane, a Socata TBM-700, was flying to Alabama before continuing on to Georgia. It crashed just after takeoff Tuesday morning from Iowa City Municipal Airport.

Several witnesses said the plane appeared to be flying low and traveling slowly in gusting winds. One witness said the aircraft rolled sideways and crashed into a ditch. The cabin wound up in a dentist's office parking lot.

Blanton's mother, Christina, and the pilot, Lewis Martin, of Bloomington, Ill., were injured in the crash.

Christina Blanton was being treated at University Hospitals on Wednesday. Harden, her father, said she was "physically doing OK" and did not know how long she would remain hospitalized.

University Hospitals spokesman Tom Moore said Wednesday that no information would be released on Martin's condition.

The crash remained under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Martin has done 60 such charitable flights over the span of more than 10 years, said Christel Gollnic, executive director of Angel Flight Central.