An autopsy determined the Michigan pilot who died when his plane crashed into a treeline near Hartsville suffered blunt force trauma.

Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting said toxicology tests are pending for Ren Sagaert, 77, Shelby Township, Michigan, who was pronounced dead at the scene after his plane was located near Williams Flying Field at 20950 E. County Road 200N at 12:52 p.m. Wednesday.

Nolting said Sagaert’s death has been ruled an accident, and he suffered blunt force trauma to his head, chest, abdomen and extremities in the plane crash.

Sagaert was taking off from the flying field in his Temco Swift plane, built in 1948, when the crash occurred, investigators said.

The pilot had left his plane at the flying field last year to be repaired by flying field owner Mike Williams and was picking it up Wednesday, said Steve Wilson, a retired National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator who talked with Williams after the crash.

Williams told Wilson that he had taxied the plane around the airfield to test the engine and brakes, but Sagaert had declined to have him perform a flight test, saying he would fly the plane when he arrived. Williams had repaired a damaged landing gear on the plane for Sagaert, Wilson said.

When Sagaert took off from the airfield, the landing gear of the tail-wheel aircraft remained down, which was unusual, Wilson said. Williams told Wilson that the plane, with its engine still running, took a sharp turn to the left and flipped upside down, going down into the tree line.

NTSB investigators were at the crash scene most of Thursday, said Bartholomew County Sheriff Chief Deputy Chris Lane.

An out-of-state company was removing the aircraft from the treeline and was expected to be finished by the end of day Thursday, Lane said.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.