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Pilot who died in Burlington plane crash was flight instructor; no cause released yet

Plane crashes in Burlington

The wreckage of a small airplane is shown after the plane crashed May 15, 2020, near the Burlington Municipal Airport, resulting in the pilot's death one day later. A lawsuit has been filed against the City of Burlington in regard to the damage allegedly caused by one firefighter's response to the plane crash. 

BURLINGTON — The pilot who crashed a plane just east of the Burlington Municipal Airport Friday night has died, Racine County Medical Examiner Michael Payne confirmed Tuesday.

The pilot — 80-year-old David Lee Schmutzler of Port Washington — succumbed Saturday to the injuries he sustained in the crash, Payne said.

Schmutzler was the president and owner of Jadair International in Port Washington, which specializes in water recycling and solids reclamation for the industrial and agricultural industry.

According to Federal Aviation Administration database records, Schmutzler was a single-engine flight instructor.

According to his obituary from Eernisse Funeral Homes and Cremation Service in Port Washington, Schmutzler is survived by his wife of 20 years, Barbara Bode, six children and eight grandchildren. A funeral date had not been set as of Tuesday.

The cause of the crash had not yet been determined as of Tuesday. The FAA has handed over the investigation into the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board. The Journal Times has reached out several times to the NTSB for an update on the crash, but the agency had not responded by Tuesday.

Crash details

City of Burlington police and fire crews were dispatched at about 6:15 p.m. Friday after a report that an aircraft had crashed near the Burlington Municipal Airport, according to a news release from the Burlington Police Department issued Saturday.

Responding officers located the crash site west of 3801 Bieneman Road, which is north of West Chestnut Street (old Highway 11/Highway JS).

The FAA said that the plane, a Cessna Centurion aircraft, had departed from West Bend with an intended destination of Burlington.

Members of the City of Burlington police and fire departments, Racine County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Burlington Fire Department and Rochester Fire Company responded to the call and first responders rendered life-saving measures to Schmutzler, who was trapped inside the aircraft.

Firefighters on scene reported via radio that Schmutzler was conscious, talking to rescuers and had a visible head injury. He was extricated by 6:50 p.m., radio reports indicated.

The pilot was transported to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, where he died the next day.

Medical condition not clear

The FAA database on fliers indicated that no medical information was available regarding Schmutzler. A call Tuesday to the FAA for additional information regarding Schmutzler’s medical clearance was not returned.

Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor in Texas who researches crashes, said if a pilot did not have medical clearance to fly that would present “an absolute risk to public safety.”

“The conscious choice to fly without a valid medical certificate is the most common offense committed by the pilot community,” Katz said.

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Alyssa Mauk covers breaking news and courts. She enjoys spending time with her family, video games, heavy metal music, watching YouTube videos, comic books and movies.

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