Longtime Arcata resident Keith Newcomer, the original owner of plaza furniture store Arcata Exchange, was apparently the victim of a plane crash Saturday evening in northern Georgia, where he was visiting his son Christopher. The boy, who is believed to be around seven years old, has also been tentatively identified as a victim of the crash. The Jasper County coroner is seeking dental records in order to make a positive identification, according to a Georgia news report.
The plane, a single-engine RV-6A, was registered to Newcomer, a licensed pilot who had constructed the aircraft himself with help from other local pilots, according to Arcata Exchange co-owner Gene Joyce. (So-called "amateur" plane-building is common among pilots, Joyce said.)
Newcomer started Arcata Exchange -- then called "Barter is Better" -- in December, 1977. Joyce became co-owner 10 years ago -- almost to the day, he said.
Joyce described Newcomer, who was 56 years old, as a generous man who loved surfing and flying.
"He believed in living life..." Joyce said. "I think he was happiest when he was working on planes and flying." Newcomer was already an avid pilot when the two men met approximately 12 years ago.
The cause of the plane crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The "experimental " plane crashed around 6:22 p.m. Saturday at Monticello Sky Ranch Airport, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told the Associated Press. The pilot and sole passenger -- now believed to be Newcomer and his son -- died at the scene. According to the Georgia news source, "The RV-6A aircraft was so badly burned, it took Federal Aviation Administration investigators until Sunday to track the plane's registration."
Joyce said Newcomer wouldn't want people to mourn his death. "He wants to see us keep living, and live with his memory and keep the spirit alive," Joyce said. "I know he's with us all right now."
[Photo from Arcata Exchange's Facebook page.]