Three people aboard small plane crash onto MMS football field


Ella Garrett, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, August 30 at around 11:05 am, a small plane attempted an emergency landing onto the middle school lower football field, but crashed into trees nearby. Three people onboard the aircraft survived with minor injuries.

27-year-old Catherine H. Terez, 52-year-old Ted Rieple III, and 79-year-old Laurence E. Rohl were all onboard, according to The News Herald. Terez, a pilot trainee, was performing a training exercise where pilots purposefully stall out the engine, and then power it back on. But after stalling out the engine, it would not turn back on. Rohl, as the Lead Pilot Trainer, then took over the aircraft’s controls to make an emergency landing. 

According to Highway Patrol Sergeant Ray Santiago, Rohl spotted the field from the sky and attempted to land on it.

Terez and Rieple both had minor injuries, while Rohl suffered broken ribs and a broken arm. 

The plane, a Cessna 172, was owned by Rohl, who owns the T&G Flight Club.  Eight years ago, another plane, also a Cessna 172 owned by Rohl and flown by one of his students, was involved in the 2014 crash that killed four Case Western Reserve Students. That plane also crashed shortly after takeoff, according to a Channel 19 News article from 2014.,

First responders are seen at the site of the crash. Credit: WKYC Studios

This crash, though, ended with no fatalities and no damage. The plane crashed about 700 feet away from the school.  No students were outside or involved due to the weather conditions at the time; students stayed indoors for physical education classes.

State Highway Patrol Sargent Ray Santiago described the incident in a press conference streamed by Fox 8 News, saying, “This is probably the best-case scenario given what they were dealing with.” 

Investigators are looking into what caused the engine malfunction. 

Principal Paul Destino said, “Right now, it looks like an honest mistake.”

Destino said he was with School Resource Officer Joe Leskovec after eighth graders had just left the cafeteria from their lunch period. “His police walkie-talkie went off about a plane crash on SOM.”

Moments later, Leskovec’s radio broke the news that the plane had actually crashed onto one of the MMS football fields. The officers did not specify exactly what field the plane had landed on, so Destino mentions, “We then sprinted out, didn’t know what field it was on, but knew it was a small plane.” 

Upon finding out the plane had indeed landed on the further-away practice field of the school, Destino remarks, “I went to the scene, stayed put, and worked with the police.” 

An aerial view captures the scene. Credit: WKYC Studios

Destino reflected on his reactions in the moment. “I’m not a person that gets scared…I just went into crisis mode.” He stated that he made sure nothing was an immediate threat to the school building or the students inside. There were no student lockdowns needed, and classes continued as normal. 

Destino confirmed the fact that no students were involved with or near the accident at any time. 

Members of the local police and fire departments stayed at the field all night. Overnight crews working at the scene safely took the plane apart after clearing the gas that had poured out in the nearby area. 

“Everything is wide open now,” Destino stated the day after the crash.

In addition to local police and fire, the State Police were conducting an investigation.  Representatives from the FAA and NTB were also present to investigate the crash, and someone from the EPA was present to test the soil for gas and fuel. 

Destino called the day’s events “quite the experience” and notes the crash will certainly be one of the wildest things to happen in his now 17 years as a principal. He thinks the event will be something that current students “will never forget” and “talk about when you’re my age.”


Special acknowledgments to Logan Gray