BRISTOL, Tenn. - A deadly stunt plane crash carrying a wing walker in Ohio has a tie to our community. The pilot of the plane, Charlie Schwenker, has performed in multiple air shows in our area.
"I was watching the news, not realizing it was Charlie. Then when they announced the pilot was Charlie Schwenker it [took me] by such surprise," says Mike Bales, a friend of Schwenker.
Bales worked with Schwenker for many years at the Tazewell County Air Show. Bales would interview Charlie after his big performances and says he will always remember his smile. "His attitude, his personality, his demeanor and the big smile. He always had a smile, always a very friendly person," adds Bales.
Charlie flew in the Tazewell County Air Show for 11 years and Bales tells us he was a very experienced pilot. "Charlie's flown just about everything so he had a history of thousands of hours of flying, a true professional," says Bales.
Charlie was expected to be back at the Tazewell County Air Show in August to be the first performer. "I just got the schedule last week and I was happy to see that Charlie was coming back. It's just such a shock when you see something happens to somebody you know, somebody you work with, somebody you care so much about," adds Bales.
Bales tells News 5 this year's air show will be missing something, and that's Charlie. Bales says Charlie was doing something he was passionate about -- flying. "He just loved what he was doing and we hate to see Charlie go that way but I'm sure he was enjoying every second of the performance," says Bales.
The wing walker was identified as Jane Wicker of Loudon, Virginia. We're told she performed at an air show in the Tri-Cities in the 1990s.
NTSB inspectors began their investigation into the crash on Sunday. They said the preliminary report will be released by the end of the week, but the full investigation will take months to complete.