Mums were Reason for Fatal Flight

Three passengers and the pilot died Friday night when their plane crashed just short of the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport in what some described as white-out conditions.


Employees with the Dallas Johnson Greenhouse flew to Texas last week to discuss mums for next season's retail business.

None survived the trip home to Council Bluffs. Three passengers and the pilot died Friday night when their plane crashed just short of the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport in what some described as white-out conditions.

Shawn Sorenson Peters, the daughter of Dallas Johnson and one of the company's executives, was among those on board. The identities of the others -- two men and a woman -- have not been released. Authorities will use dental records today to positively identify the remains, said Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker.

Bill McGinn, chairman of the Council Bluffs Airport Authority, said the pilot listed on the flight plan was qualified.

He had "a lot of years and thousands of hours of experience," McGinn said. The pilot also had been an instructor at the Council Bluffs airport, he said.

Dallas Johnson Greenhouse probably hired the pilot for Friday's flight through a private contractor, McGinn said. The plane, a 1977 twin-engine Cessna 340A, was registered to Color Ink, a Council Bluffs company of which Dallas Johnson is president.

One of the group's stops was Hillister, Texas, where Sorenson Peters and her co-workers discussed flowers for next spring and fall with Timberline Nursery.

Timberline buys plants from Dallas Johnson Greenhouse because garden flowers, especially mums, become colorful earlier in northern climates, said Jill Dinger, production manager for Timberline.

Timberline then sells the flowers to stores such as Home Depot.

"We're all just kind of in shock here" about the crash, Dinger said Sunday.

Grief-stricken relatives found it hard to talk about Sorenson Peters.

But her father and husband each described her as a good, loving person.

"She's a spectacular lady," said Dallas Johnson. "She grew up like all young people do and became one heck of a person."

Sorenson Peters had three children: Travis Wisotzkey, 24, Emily Sorenson, 19, and Lindsey Sorenson, 16.

Her husband, Sean Peters, said his wife of two years was "just a beautiful person."

"Very caring. Very loving," he said.

Sorenson Peters said in a 2001 interview with greenbeam.com, a Web site for the horticulture industry, that she worked for seven years as a chain-store buyer before going to work for her father.

In a 2004 World-Herald article, she described the business' 50-acre spread of greenhouses as one of the largest wholesale greenhouses in the Midwest. Plants and flowers from Dallas Johnson Greenhouse supply chain stores and garden centers in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota, according to the company's Web site, djgreenhouses.com.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash.

McGinn said he had talked to a number of people who reported near white-out conditions when the plane crashed.

"It sounds like weather was a big factor," he said. "It came in rather quick. These professional pilots, they don't take chances. They do their best to keep track of weather conditions."

It looked as if the plane "came up short of the runway," McGinn said.



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