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'Aviation industry has taken a real loss:' 2 killed in plane crash near Livingston County airport

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. – Friends and family are mourning two men who were killed Tuesday in a small plane crash near a Livingston County airport.

Philip Henry Colmer, 64, of Chelsea, has been identified as the pilot of the single-engine Rockwell Commander M200. James Tafralian, 68, of Webberville, was the only passenger on the plane, officials said.

Ron Cooper's friendship with Tafralian goes back 35 to 40 years.

"Him and I actually skydived together as teenagers at Michigan State," Cooper said.

Both were airplane mechanics and pilots in the Howell area. They spoke often. When Cooper saw the news that a plane went down at the airport, he immediately picked up the phone.

"I called his number because he always answers," Cooper said. "He didn't answer."

Tafralian had finished the yearly inspection on the plane and went up in the air for a test spin.

"Something must have tragically gone wrong where the pilot got him into a situation where Jim couldn't correct the situation in time before stalling and spinning," Cooper said. "If you don't have airspeed, you don't fly."

The loss hits even harder for Cooper because just this past winter, he lost another friend, Randy Dippold, who crashed and died in Lake Michigan in May. The body was never recovered. Dippold worked out of the same hangar in Livingston County as Tafralian.

"Between Randy and Jim, the aviation industry has taken a real loss of some knowledgeable mechanics," Cooper said.

"I've had some real losses the last few months, and this has been a tough one, you know. I knew that phone was ringing in his pocket but he was never going to anwer it again."


About the Authors:

Jason Colthorp

Jason anchors Local 4's 5:30 p.m. newscast. He joined WDIV in January 2015 as a general assignment reporter and has a Journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Kayla Clarke

Kayla is a web producer with an English degree from Michigan State University. Before joining the ClickOnDetroit team in 2018, she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.