Ken Lackey, executive vice president fo the Nordam Group, discusses a Monday Airplane crash that took the lives of Tulsa business and community leaders Charles Ryan and James W. Pielsticker. The men were part of a 11-person hunting expedition in far north Canada.
JAMES GIBBAD / Tulsa World
Below: A map of the crash site.
Nordam, Arrow Trucking executives dead
Tulsa business and community leaders Charles Ryan and James W. Pielsticker died and four others were injured Monday evening when their pontoon plane crashed into a lake during a hunting trip in Canada.
Ryan, 50, was president and chief operating officer of the Nordam Group, an aerospace company. Pielsticker, 63, was president and chief executive officer of Arrow Trucking Co.
The Canadian pilot, identified as Eleandre Meunaer, also was killed.
Injured in the crash were Robin Siegfried, president of Nordam Enterprise Division; Mike Case, president of Case & Associates; Vince Westbrook, director of tennis for the University of Tulsa; and Jamie Hagan, a Nordam employee who is the foreman of Stone Bluff Ranch, which is owned by the company.
Case reportedly lifted up Westbrook and Siegfried as they waited in the frigid water for a rescue boat. Officials said snow and strong winds were reported at the time of the crash.
Siegfried had two broken legs and underwent surgery Tuesday at Montreal General Hospital.
Case, Hagan and Westbrook returned to Tulsa on Tuesday on businessman Roger Hardesty's plane. The three were admitted to St. Francis Hospital in good condition, a spokeswoman said.
Case, 51, had a fractured right ankle and shoulder injuries. Westbrook, 37, also suffered a fractured right ankle as well as lacerations. Hagan, 30, suffered a sprained ankle but was being held for observation.
Ken Lackey, executive vice president of the Nordam Group, said none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
"This is a sad, horrible tragedy for Tulsa and for Oklahoma," Gov. Frank Keating said Tuesday. "Jim Pielsticker and Charles Ryan were close friends of mine, but they were much more -- gifted business leaders, as well as devoted husbands and fathers. Like so many people during this time, my heart goes out to the families of all involved in this dark ordeal."
Both Ryan and Pielsticker were involved in numerous civic and business groups.
The men were among a party of 11 people who went on a caribou hunting trip to a lodge near Hudson Bay in Quebec, Lackey said. The crash occurred about 5:30 p.m. CDT Monday near the lodge as the party was returning on two planes from the first day of hunting.
Lackey said the first plane, a Cessna 185, made it safely to the lodge. Passengers on that plane were Mike Bonsignore, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Honeywell Inc.; James Griffin, an orthopedic physician from Tulsa; Ray Siegfried, chairman and chief executive officer of the Nordam Group and brother of Robin Siegfried; and Hastings Siegfried, general manager of Nordam in Texas and son of Ray Siegfried.
Another member of the hunting party, former astronaut Jim McDivitt of Michigan, apparently remained at the lodge and was not on either plane, according to Nordam officials.
"The people who were on the first plane had already entered the lodge" when the second plane crashed, Lackey said.
"They heard the other plane come in, but the other plane never pulled up to the dock, so when that happened they went to investigate and found there had been an accident."
Dennis Deroy, a technical investigator for the Transportation Safety Board in Montreal, said the crash occurred in Lake Mollet on Hudson Bay in Quebec province. Deroy said the single-engine float plane is upside down in about 20 feet of water.
He said officials with his agency will arrive at the site Wednesday to begin their investigation into what caused the crash. Divers from the Kativik Regional Police Force were able to recover the bodies of Pielsticker and the pilot from the plane's wreckage Tuesday. Ryan's body was recovered immediately after the crash.
The crash occurred as the plane was trying to land on the lake near the village of Kuujjuarapik, Deroy said. It is unclear how far away from the water the aircraft was when problems occurred. The plane apparently broke apart on impact.
Witnesses to the crash are being questioned to determine what happened, Deroy said.
Ben Abney, a friend of Case's, said he had been told that the plane was banking over the lodge and that "when it got back over the water it fell out of the sky."
"Mike and the other guys were sort of crowded into the back and didn't have their seat belts on, which may have saved their lives," Abney said. "Robin got out somehow, and Mike pulled Vince out."
Abney said he heard that Case "got Vince pinned up against the wreckage and was holding onto Robin. Mike said if the boat had been five seconds more getting there, he didn't know what would have happened because he couldn't hold onto Robin any longer."
Both planes were owned by Air St-Maurice Inc. of LaTuque, which offers charter flights for tourists and hunting groups.
The float plane that crashed, called a Beaver, has a cruising speed of 135 mph. It has a 450-horsepower propeller-driven radial engine.
The maximum weight capacity of the plane is about 5,200 pounds, Deroy said. The airplane seats eight people, including the pilot.
Six passengers and a pilot were on board at the time of the crash.
Deroy said officials will investigate several possibilities, including any role that weather might have played.
The plane is not equipped with de-icing equipment, he said.
About 4-1/2 hours before the crash, a twin-engine plane crashed northeast of Montreal, killing four people.
The pilot had reported problems with blowing snow before the crash.
Brian Jones, chief of the Kativik Regional Police Force in Quebec, said weather at the time of the crash that killed the Tulsans was "not great."
"It was snowing, and the wind was quite strong," Jones said, adding that the temperature was about 33 degrees.
"The plane had flown over the lake, and after a short period there was nothing, so the camp manager presumed they had made a landing," he said.
"When the boat arrived where the plane usually lands, . . . there were three people hanging onto the plane, and one was floating in the water."
Ryan and Pielsticker were remembered as gifted businessmen who helped build their respective companies from fledgling startups to successful corporations.
Founded in 1969, the Nordam Group manufactures, overhauls and repairs a variety of airframe and engine parts, reversers and nacelles for commercial, regional and executive aircraft.
Ryan had worked for the company for about 26 years, Lackey said.
Pielsticker started Arrow Trucking Co. in 1968 with five trucks in seven states.
The company now serves the 48 contiguous states, Canada and Mexico, operating 1,400 trucks and 2,500 trailers.
"Charles Ryan and Jim Pielsticker were two of the finest Tulsans I've ever had the pleasure of meeting," Lackey said.
"They were two people who were community spirited and did a tremendous amount for this city. The whole Nordam group offers our deepest condolences to their family."
Flags at both companies flew at half-staff Tuesday. Plans for memorials have not been announced.
"We're basically devastated," Lackey said. "Charles Ryan is a person who is very deeply respected here. Many people have said he is the glue that has held Nordam together and helped it grow."
The crash is the second that Robin Siegfried has survived. In March 1996, he and his brother, Ray, were flying a helicopter on a hunting trip when the craft crashed and caught fire near Chandler.
Two teenage boys helped carry Robin Siegfried, who had a broken back, from the wreckage.
World staff writer Randy Krehbiel contributed to this story. Ziva Branstetter, World projects editor, can be reached at 581-8378 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Hunting trip tragedy An image file with the mugshots of those involved in the trip. 65.1KB
Avid hunter remembered
Funeral services for James W. Pielsticker, president and chief executive officer of Arrow Trucking Co., are pending with Fitzgerald's Ivy Funeral Home.
Pielsticker, several Tulsa hunting companions and their Canadian pilot crashed in a pontoon plane about 1,000 miles north of Montreal at Lake Mollet near Hudson Bay about 5:30 p.m. CDT Monday. Charles Ryan, 50, president and chief operating officer of the Nordam Group, and the pilot also were killed.
"Jimmy loved the outdoors, loved to hunt -- all kinds, but duck and geese primarily," said J. Roger Collins, Arrow's vice president and a 30-year friend of Pielsticker's. "He built this company from nothing to where it is out of a commitment to work hard and, at the same time, to serve this community."
Relatives, friends and colleagues at Arrow Trucking and a dozen civic organizations to which Pielsticker gave his time grieved Tuesday upon hearing of his death.
Robert E. Lorton, chairman and publisher of the World Publishing Co. and the Tulsa World, said Pielsticker, 63, was like a member of his family.
"Through the years I spent many wonderful times with Jim," Lorton said. "He was like a second father to my son, Bobby. He was truly a friend, and we will miss him forever."
Bob Pielsticker said his uncle's family takes some consolation in the fact that he was doing what he loved when he died.
"He was the best uncle you could ever have," Bob Pielsticker said. "I could take five hours telling you all the things he did for me. . . . He was a neat man, and I can't say enough about him."
Those thoughts were echoed by employees at Arrow Trucking, 4230 S. Elwood Ave., a privately held dry van and flatbed carrier.
Raised in Tulsa, Pielsticker attended Central High School and worked during the summer at the Sun Oil Co. refinery. He dreamed of owning a company someday.
"I knew I wanted to run my own business, so I decided to get a degree in business administration," Pielsticker told the Tulsa World in 1995. "I didn't know yet what that business would be, but I thought a business education would someday help me."
He was accepted by Notre Dame University, where he earned a degree in business administration, and later attended law school at the University of Oklahoma, where he met his wife, Carol, on a blind date.
After graduation, he went to work for a Tulsa attorney because he didn't have the money to invest in a business. But at dinner with a friend one night, he learned that Arrow Trucking was for sale.
Pielsticker and his friend, Hap Solliday, decided to become partners. They put together $5,000 and a bank note to purchase Arrow and its five trucks in 1968. Arrow now has more than 1,400 drivers and operates more than 1,400 tractors and 2,500 trailers in 48 states, Canada and Mexico.
"The best compliment I can pay him is that he was a big, tough competitor," said Bob Peterson, president of Melton Truck Lines, a competing flat-bed carrier in Tulsa. "He succeeded in making the transfer from oil-field hauler to general commodities hauler, steered the company through deregulation in 1980, survived and prospered, which many companies did not."
"Jim was one of the great ones," said Tulsa Airport Authority Chairman Joseph L. Parker Jr., who grew up next door to Pielsticker. "He was one of the nicest people on this planet and as generous as a human being could be. It's a tragic loss for their families, their companies and this town," he said of Pielsticker and Ryan.
Spokesmen for the Tulsa Area United Way and The Nature Conservancy, two of Pielsticker's longtime interests, said he will be missed and long remembered.
"Today, I personally lost two friends, and Tulsa lost two giant leaders," said Francis Rooney, the 2001 United Way chairman and president of Manhattan Construction.
"This is a tremendous loss for the United Way and our community," said Ron King, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma.
Grant Gerondale, a spokesman for The Nature Conservancy, spoke about Pielsticker's devotion to conservancy efforts and, in particular, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve north of Pawhuska.
"He was great guy, and it's a terrible loss for the Oklahoma Chapter," Gerondale said.
Pielsticker is survived by his wife, Carol; a son, Doug, of Tulsa; a daughter, Melissa Ison of Houston; and four grandchildren.
Friends recall Ryan's wit
Funeral services for Charles B. Ryan, president and chief operating officer of the Nordam Group, a Tulsa-based aerospace company, are pending with Fitzgerald's Ivy Funeral Home.
Ryan, a key figure during Nordam's resurgence from bankruptcy to one of the most innovative aerospace manufacturers in the country, was one of three people who died in the crash in Canada of a pontoon plane as it returned to camp from a day of caribou hunting near Hudson Bay.
Also killed was Arrow Trucking President Jim Pielsticker, and the pilot.
Born Oct. 10, 1950, in Venezuela to U.S. citizens on foreign assignment, Ryan attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a bachelor's degree in business administration.
He worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad through 1975 before joining Nordam, which was then a small aerospace company in Tulsa. Purchased from bankruptcy in the late- 1960s, the Nordam Group grew under the guidance of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ray Siegfried.
From its early years, Nordam's product line expanded from military shelters to commercial aircraft interiors to oil coolers, heat exchangers, noise suppression devices for jet engines, nacelles and aircraft windshields and windows. Employment grew from a couple of people to more than 2,200, company officials said.
Ryan's contribution to the company's growth is immeasurable, former Nordam spokesman Jack Morris said.
"Right next to Ray, he was as responsible as anybody for Nordam's growth," Morris said. "He was a great leader -- just a marvelous man. Ev erybody loved Charlie."
Ken Lackey, Nordam's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said Ryan was a visionary in the aerospace industry.
"He moved Nordam from a small repair operation to a parts supplier to a major factor in the industry," Lackey said. "Today, Nordam is a supplier of original equipment on virtually every private jet flying today as well as being a factor in the commercial airline industry and defense."
Robert E. Lorton, chairman and publisher of the World Publishing Co. and the Tulsa World, said Ryan was an unforgettable friend.
"Charlie was a keen businessman, a wonderful traveling companion, a champion joke teller and a true friend," Lorton said. "We will miss him tremendously."
Francis Rooney, the 2001 campaign chairman of the Tulsa Area United Way, said he was saddened by the death of Ryan, who was a longtime contributor.
Tulsa International Airport Director Brent Kitchen said of Ryan, who was chairman of the Tulsa Aerospace Alliance: "He's one of the best businessmen I have ever known. He was an outstanding community leader and a very, very nice person."
Bob Peterson, president of Tulsa-based Melton Truck Lines, and Tulsa Airport Authority Chairman Joseph L. Parker Jr. agreed that they are grieving for both Ryan and Pielsticker.
Peterson said he got to know Ryan during the past seven years as a member of the Young President's Organization.
"No one could spin a yarn or tell a joke like Charlie Ryan," Peterson said. "He was witty, funny, a great family man who loved his wife and kids and, with the Siegfrieds, was building Nordam into a great company. Both guys were big, big losses to their families, communities, businesses and charitable organizations," he said.
"You're going to hear this from a lot of people: These were two wonderful people," Peterson continued.
Parker said he couldn't find a subject with which Ryan wasn't thoroughly familiar.
"Sports, nature, flying, wine, hunting -- he was a Renaissance man," he said. "He had a heart so big, and he had such a passion for life and was such a vital fellow. . . . I really, really loved the man."
Ryan is survived by his wife, Sally; two sons, Charles Hayden of Boulder, Colo., and Colin of Norman; and a daughter, Jennifer Ryan Mills of Dallas.