Staff and wire reports
A small rented airplane crashed and burned shortly after takeoff Monday, killing four college students who were taking a sightseeing flight around Cleveland after their first day of classes.
The four men were students at Case Western Reserve University. Three were members of the varsity wrestling team.
The wrestlers were identified as 20-year-old Lucas Marcelli of Massillon; 18-year-old Abraham Pishevar of Rockville, Maryland; and 18-year-old John Hill of St. Simons, Georgia. The fourth student was the pilot, 20-year-old William Felten of Saginaw, Michigan.
Marcelli was the son of former Highland wrestling coach Bryan Marcelli, who was a longtime gym teacher at Highland’s Hinckley and Sharon elementary schools.
Marcelli and Felten were sophomores and Pishevar and Hill were freshmen.
The plane appeared to be trying to return to the airport when it crashed, said Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. He said investigators expect to file a preliminary report next week, but the full investigation could take a year to complete.
Bryan Marcelli of Massillon said his son Lucas and the three other students planned to go up, take a look around and come right back to the same airport. He said Lucas was a hard-working student but not a risk taker.
“If he wasn’t my son, I’d want my son to be around him, because he was such a positive influence,” Marcelli said.
Lucas Marcelli graduated from Jackson High School in Massillon and twice qualified for Ohio’s state wrestling tournament.
Abraham “Abe” Pishevar recently graduated from Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Maryland. High school classmate Cam Giarraputo said Pishevar never boasted about his wrestling accomplishments.
Case Western Reserve is one of the world’s top research universities. The campus sprawls across a portion of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood in a mix of stately stone and brick buildings and distinctive modern structures. Students on campus gathered Tuesday afternoon at Veale Center, one of the school’s athletic facilities, to talk and to console each other.
The university’s wrestling coach, Mark Hawald, said no coach is ever prepared to deal with the sudden death of young athletes.
“We’re just coping and mourning and figuring how we can move on from losing three of our teammates, three of our brothers, three of our family,” Hawald said.
Case Western Reserve will work closely with the men’s roommates and friends, university President Barbara Snyder said in a statement.
There are no indications why the single-engine Cessna 172R crashed so soon after takeoff Monday night from Cuyahoga County Regional Airport in suburban Richmond Heights. The plane crashed in nearby Willoughby Hills.
Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Jennifer Smola contributed to this report, along with Gazette sportswriter Albert Grindle.