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Ashburn Pilot Dies in Crash

July 10-16, 2002

An Ashburn pilot died Saturday when he crash-landed a single-engine airplane into a Leesburg neighborhood, missing a house there and landing in a driveway.

James Sambos, 44, began taking his son Paul Sambos, who is in his early '20s, from the Leesburg Airport north along Route 15. Sambos, a pilot for United Airlines, radioed in engine problems and turned back toward the airport, according to witness accounts.

"While trying to make it back, he [Sambos] radioed in an emergency landing," said Trooper Gene Overton of the Virginia State Police. "Another pilot [flying] above him said it looked like he was trying to land in Ida Lee Park."

Witnesses said they saw Sambos' plane sputter and lose speed and altitude, Overton said. The 125-horsepower Diamond DA20 C-1 he was flying went down at about 10:20 a.m. at Tudor Court, destroying both the airplane and the driveway and nicking a pickup truck parked nearby.

The state and Leesburg police departments, the Loudoun County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) all responded to the accident. The FAA and TSB investigated the cause of the accident, but have not drawn any conclusions yet, Overton said. Investigations are expected to continue for at least another two weeks, he said.

The airplane, which Sambos had leased from the Av-Ed Flight School at the airport, was removed from the driveway by Monday afternoon. The residents living in the home where the crash occurred were able to return Saturday evening.

James Sambos died of internal injuries, and Paul Sambos had minor injuries, according to the Virginia State Police.