'American father of the Prius' dies in plane crash

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Posted by on November 26, 2006 at 18:28:30:

In Reply to: new aircraft wreck at White Point posted by on November 26, 2006 at 12:42:40:

Search crews Sunday morning located the wreckage of an experimental plane that crashed into the ocean off San Pedro, southwest of Los Angeles, on Saturday, killing the pilot, a top engineer for Toyota.

After sonar spotted the submerged plane, divers from the Los Angeles County Fire Department videotaped it to aid a crash investigation, according to Mark Savage, a department spokesman. Savage said plans are being made to retrieve the wreckage, which was found about 70 feet below the surface.

The Saturday afternoon crash killed David Hermance, 59, from Huntington Beach. His body was found floating in the water shortly afterward.

The area where the crash occurred is often used by pilots for aerobatics and witnesses said they saw the plane flying in loops and dives before the accident. Witnesses said that during one of the maneuvers the plane's engine revved and, instead of pulling out of a loop, the plane went straight into the water. One witness added that he thought he saw an un-inflated parachute trailing the plane.

Hermance was Executive Engineer for Advanced Technology Vehicles at Toyota's technical center in the Los Angeles area. He played a key role in unveiling to the American market such cars as the Prius, which runs on a combination of gasoline and batteries. "His job was to take the technology developed in Japan and bring it to the United States," said Bill Reinert, a longtime colleague. "He was the American father of the Prius."

Reinert added that Hermance, who was married and had two grown children, was an experienced pilot who loved his plane. "He was always talking about getting in it and doing" aerobatic maneuvers, Reinert said.

Authorities identified the plane as a Interavia E-3. It took off form the Long Beach Airport Saturday. Hermance was the only occupant, said Savage. The plane crashed at about 1:20 p.m. Saturday, roughly 400 yards offshore.

The FAA Web site classifies Hermance's plane as experimental, meaning it was assembled by amateurs or from a kit, or that it was a light-sport aircraft that had not received a U.S. or foreign certificate for airworthiness. An NTSB report shows that an Interavia E-3 with the same registry was damaged when it ran out of fuel and made an emergency landing in a Watsonville, Calif., cow pasture on July 9, 2000.

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