Plane crash kills Iowa trooper, misses motel
The Des Moines Register, October 15, 1990
by Tom Alex and Jeffrey Bruner, Register
An Iowa State Patrol trooper died Sunday morning
when the plane he was piloting crashed close to a crowded motel
as he followed a truck being sought by authorities.
Trooper Allen Nieland, 41, of Iowa City died in
the 7:30 a.m. crash about 5 miles east of Williamsburg at the
Little Amana development on Interstate Highway 80. Authorities
arrested a man more than three hours later and charged him with
vehicular homicide in the trooper's death.
"He was a very, very experienced pilot because
he knew where to take it and not hurt anyone," said Barb
Iburg, manager of the Super 8 motel near the crash site. The plane
crashed in a grassy field about one-eighth of a mile south of
the motel, which was packed with fans who had attended the University
of Iowa-Wisconsin football game Saturday in Iowa City.
The single-engine Cessna 172 took off from Cedar
Rapids at 7:20 a.m. and crashed 10 minutes later in a farm field
near the intersection of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 151, said
Sandra Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration
in Kansas City, Mo.
State Patrol Chief Col. Baline Goff said the plane
caught fire after it crashed. He said Nieland was in radio contact
with the Cedar Rapids airport and did not indicate any problems
before the crash. Nation Transportation Safety Board investigators
arrived at the scene Sunday afternoon.
The nose of the plane was broken off and separated
from the rest of the wreckage on the ground, and the entire aircraft
was badly charred. Only a few of the plane's identification numbers,
N99862, were visible.
Authorities arrested Walter W. Garris, 29, at 11
a.m. about three miles north of Oxford in Johnson County. Garris,
who had no known address, was being held Sunday night at the Iowa
County jail on $600,000 bond after being charged with vehicular
homicide. Authorities said the truck Garris was driving had been
stolen in Reno, Nev.
Garris was captured at the Larry Lovetinsky home
north of Oxford after resident in the area had been alerted to
the fugitive's presence.
Garris came to Lovetinsky's door. Lovetinsky said
he slammed the door in the fugitive's face and went outside via
another door. Lovetinsky met his friend Eric Stewart, who was
armed, and together they took Garris into custody.
"Eric kept the gun on him and I frisked him,"
Garris was not armed, Lovitinsky said. "He
was all soggy like he'd been running through wet weeds,"
Word was that the woman riding with him jumped out
of the truck in Oxford, Lovetinsky said, taking the keys with
her, but that report could not be confirmed.
Iowa County authorities said Garris was also wanted
in New York State on drug charges. They declined to identify a
man and a woman who were passengers in the truck.
Poweshiek County sheriff's officials said Garris
picked up the unidentified may and woman passengers as hitchhikers
in Nevada. On Sunday morning the man was left behind at the Star
Inn at the Interstate 80 exit for What Cheer and Belle Plaine.
He called authorities to say his belongings were traveling east
in the truck and he wanted them back, beginning the pursuit.
Poweschiek county officials said they are considering
The crash could have become a major disaster had
the plane struck the motel.
"It was no doubt a close call for the motel,"
said Hope Gingerich, desk clerk at the Super 8. A trooper said
the plane hit the ground not far from the motel. All but 15 rooms
of the 62-room motel were occupied at the time, Gingerich said.
Motel manager Iburg said her friends, Lowell
and Jan Jones, were staying in a camper behind the motel and heard
what sounded like an engine stalling twice. Iburg said
Jan Jones told her the plane was headed in the general direction
of the hotel.
Like Two Cars Crashing
Colleen Bair, head maid at the motel, looked out
the window when the plane hit.
"It sounded like two cars crashing," Bair
said. The plane did not catch fire on impact. Bair said she ran
downstairs, shouted at Gingerich that a plane had crashed and
together they ran outside.
"As we were running down the hallway we heard
the explosion," Gingerich said.
Bair said three state troopers arrived on the scene
before she did. They used up two fire extinguishers on the plane
and a third from the motel, but they were not enough against the
"They told us there was one person inside,
but you couldn't see inside for the smoke and flames," Gingerich
said. "Someone grabbed the fire extinguisher from me and
used it, but it didn't put it our. You have to try thought. It
was just a matter of waiting for the fire department."
Wife Was in Church
Nieland's wife, Julie, was attending services at
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Iowa City at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday
when a church elder took her from the sanctuary and told her her
husband had been involved in a plane crash.
"There were a lot of wet eyes when they heard
the news because he was highly loved by the congregation,"
the Rev. Robert Bailey, pastor of the church, said. "He was
a strong, vibrant force in the congregation."
Bailey said Allen Nieland served as a church elder
for four years; was a member of the Good News Singers, the church
choir; and regularly attended adult Bible classes when he wasn't
on duty as a state trooper.
"He had a beautiful tenor solo voice,"
The accident was the second fatal Iowa State Patrol
airplane crash in just over 15 months.
1989 Killed 2 Troopers
On June 30, 1989, troopers Lance G. Dietsch, 30,
of Council Bluffs and Stanley E. Gerling, 34, of Atlantic died
when the plane they were riding in crashed in a soybean field
south of Atlantic. They were the first Iowa troopers to die in
an airplane crash.
Dietsch was the pilot. He and Gerling were involved
in a search for a man who had wondered away from a nursing home.
They were circling the man's location to direct ground searchers
when the plane crashed.
Pilot error probably caused the crash, Nation Transportation
Safety Board investigators ruled last month. The airplane was
going too slowly and stalled, the board said.
Nieland is the ninth trooper to be killed in the
line of duty since the patrol was established in 1935.
Besides his wife, Nieland is survived by two sons,
Eric, 4, and Ryan, 18 months; two daughters, Andrea, 18, of Florida
and Jeanette, 15 of Fort Dodge; his parents of Manson, three brothers;
and two sisters.
Hundreds Bid Farewell to Trooper
The Press-Citizen, October 18, 1990
By Valoree Armstrong
Family, friends and hundreds of law officers gathered
Wednesday to remember Allen P. Nieland as a man who loved his
family, his church and his job as a state trooper.
"He fought the good fight, he finished the
course and he kept the faith," the Rev. Robert Bailey said.
Nieland, 41, died Sunday when his plane crashed
near Little Amana during the case of a suspect in a Poweshiek
County theft. He is survived by his wife, Julie, and his children
Eric, Ryan, Jeanette and Andrea.
Eight hundred to 900 people packed Our Redeemer
Lutheran Church to mourn Nieland's death and celebrate his life.
More than 300 state, county and city law officers attended, lining
the walls of the church as well as the halls and entryways. Troopers
traveled from a half-dozen surrounding states. Gov. Terry Branstad
also paid his respects to the family.
Nieland joined the Iowa State Patrol in 1982. He
earned his pilot's license in 1984. He also was a retired guardsman.
Nieland was devoted to his work, but he was also
dedicated to his faith in god, his pastor said.
Bailey described Nieland as an active member of
the church, serving on the Board of Elders and the Board of Christian
Growth, teaching Sunday school and singing with the Good News
Singers. He kept his Bible with him while he patrolled, and he
wasn't' shy about talking with Bailey about his faith and sharing
it with others.
"He lived and died in that conviction and in
that faith," Bailey said.
"Allen has won the victory."
Nieland was buried at Memory Gardens Cemetery. Rows
upon rows of uniformed officers saluted as Nieland's coffin, shrouded
in an American flag, was brought to the graveside. During Nieland's
committal, he received a twenty-one-gun-salute from a local National
Guard unit. Seven member of the unit fired three volleys, a shot
three times simultaneously.
In a final farewell, the group listened as the notes
of Taps filled the fall air.
Pilot Error Blamed in Trooper's Death
Omaha World-Herald, October 17, 1990
Iowa City, Iowa (AP)
- Pilot error was probably the cause
of a crash that killed State Trooper Allen Nieland as he was pursuing
a robbery suspect driving a stolen vehicle, a federal official
Nieland, 41, of Iowa City,
died Sunday morning when his single-engine Cessna 172 crashed
five miles east of Williamsburg at the Little Amana development
on Interstate 80. He was helping patrol card on the group pursue
Walter Garris, 29, when his plane crashed in a field about 100
yards from a crowded hotel.
Stephen Wilson, an investigator
from Nation Transportation Safety Board headquarters in West Chicago,
Ill., and a team of investigators spent Sunday and Monday talking
with people who witnessed the crash.
"They seemed to indicate
the pilot was pretty low, trying to avoid some power and telephone
wired in the area," Wilson said.
"I think he got too
low and got himself boxed in with the wires," he said. "He
may have made an abrupt maneuver to avoid the wires, and that
lead to his downfall."
Asked whether the crash
was due to pilot error, Wilson said, "That's probably what
it amounts to."
Garris is being held in
the Iowa County Jail in Marengo on $6000,000 bond after being
charged with homicide by vehicle, a felony.
A final NTSB report probably
won't be ready for another six months.
There were reports that
shots were fired during the case, but Wilson said investigator
found no evidence of bullet holes on the plane.
"We couldn't find anything
mechanically wrong with the airplane. And the autopsy report cam
back negative, which means he didn't have heart failure of anything
like that," Wilson said.
Nieland joined the patrol
in 1982 and has been flying patrol planes since 1984.
A funeral service is scheduled
today at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, where Nieland was a former
church elder and sang in the choir.
More than 100 patrol officers,
police officers and National Guardsman, as well as Gov. Barnstad,
are expected at the service, said Patrol Capt. Fred Burger.
Nieland had recently retired
from a National Guard unit stationed in Des Moines, Burger said.
"There might be a large
contingent of the National Guard representatives there,"
Troopers from the patrol's
14 district offices around the state will be on hand, as well
as representatives from surrounding states, Burger said.
"I would expect a sizable
turnout," he said.
The patrol is trying to
reach a trooper on assignment in western Iowa who will play "Taps"
on a bugle, Burger said.
Nieland is the ninth trooper
to be killed in the line of duty since the patrol was established
in 1935. Sunday's accident was the second fatal Iowa State Patrol
airplane crash in less than two years.
On June 30, 1989, troopers
Lance G. Dietsch, 30, of Council Bluffs and Stanley E. Gerling,
34, of Atlantic died when the plane piloted by Dietsch crashed
in a soybean field south of Atlantic. They were the first troopers
to die in an airplane crash.
The men had been searching for a man who had
wondered away form a nursing home. The NTSB said pilot error probably
caused the crash of the plane, which was going too slowly and
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