Woodbridge man dies in plane crash

Reinald Finke, a nuclear physicist, airplane pilot and bike rider, died Monday when the engine of his experimental aircraft stopped while he was in the air several miles from Fauquier-Warrenton Airport.

“They still don’t know why it stopped,” his wife said.

When Finke left his home on Fernleaf Court in Woodbridge, he told his wife he was going to practice take-offs and landings.

Finke, 73, had been a licensed pilot since 1956, according to a report from Media General News Service.

Mrs. Finke said her husband, who retired in the mid-90s from the Defense Analyses Institute in Alexandria, was in good physical condition.

“He was so healthy. He used to ride his bike 2 1/2 miles every day no matter how hot or how cold it was,” she said.

Finke, who worked on the Strategic Defense Initiative, used to come home and tell his wife about what he had done at work.

“People made fun of it and called it ‘Star Wars,’ but he was really disappointed when they shut it down. They had it all figured out,” she said.

The Strategic Defense Initiative was a federal government program developed during the Reagan administration for research and development of a space-based system to defend the nation from missiles.

Mrs. Finke thinks the system would have worked.

“He would explain it to me. He really wanted me to understand,” she said.

“To me, [his death is] such a waste. He was such a brilliant man,” Mrs. Finke said.

Finke’s plane, a Challenger II, sheared some treetops before it crashed into a pine tree near Va. 610 at 3:30 p.m., said Lucy Caldwell, state police spokeswoman.

Finke was taken to Fauquier Hospital where he died at 4:47 p.m., Caldwell said.

According to Media General News Service, Emmet Hackely, 86, of Amissville was killed Monday in a related accident.

State police Sgt. Todd Taylor was on the way to the plane crash site, with emergency lights and siren on, when Hackley drove his 1994 GMC pickup into the cruiser’s path, Caldwell said.

Witnesses at the scene said Taylor tried to avoid Hackley, but struck the left front wheel of the truck and both vehicles left the east bound lanes of U.S. 211 and spun into the median, according to the Media General report.

Hackley, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from his truck, Caldwell said.

Hackley was flown to Fairfax Inova Hospital, where he died at 6:06 p.m., the Media General report stated.

No charges have been filed in the accident.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the airplane crash.

Wally Bunker of the Culpeper Star-Exponent contributed to this report.

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