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4 dead, 2 injured in pair of crashes near Wisconsin air show

The crashes occurred Saturday in and near Oshkosh as a major annual airshow, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, was amid its penultimate day.
Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisc.
Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisc.Google Maps

A midair collision between a helicopter and a gyrocopter as a major airshow was underway in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, left two dead and two injured Saturday, authorities said.

Two others died earlier in the day when a single-engine plane went into nearby Lake Winnebago, Capt. Lara Vendola-Messer with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office said.

The two incidents happened as the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in and convention was being held nearby.

The first crash occurred about 9 a.m. when a single-engine North American T-6 Texan went into Lake Winnebago after departing Wittman Regional Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. This was off-site for the air show.

The U.S. Coast Guard for the Great Lakes Region confirmed two were on board and that its crews had located both persons. It said the plane was reportedly maneuvering before rapidly descending from around 3,000 feet.

Multiple agencies, including Winnebago County Marine Units, the Calumet County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the morning's crash site. 

The mid-air collision at Wittman Regional Airport was reported about 1:30 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Identities of the two deceased weren't immediately available. The two injured people were stabilized at a hospital, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh organizers said in a statement.

It wasn't clear which patients came from which aircraft, described by the FAA as a Rotorway 162F helicopter and an ELA Eclipse 10 gyrocopter.

Gyrocopters look like small helicopters, but their propellers spin under natural surface pressure — without the aid of engines or electric motors.

The Experimental Aircraft Association said the copters belonged to event-goers.

Aircraft operations at the airport were temporarily halted after the afternoon collision and the afternoon air show was briefly delayed, organizers said.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, based at Wittman, wraps up its weeklong run Sunday. The annual attraction features a fair-like atmosphere adjacent to airspace used to display vintage planes, state-of-the-art aircraft, and pilot performances.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating both incidents.