Athens, Tenn. doctor and family killed after plane crashes into house

Athens, Tenn. doctor and family killed after plane crashes into house

Plane that crashed into Boston home linked to Athens, Cleveland doctors

June 29th, 2015 by Kate Belz in Local Regional News

A firefighter moves a hose into position outside a house into which a small plane had crashed in Plainville, Mass., Sunday, June 28, 2015. Jim Peters of the Federal Aviation Administration says the Beechcraft plane crashed into the house at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday. It had taken off from Lancaster Airport in Pennsylvania and was en route to an airport in Norwood, Mass.

A firefighter moves a hose into position outside...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

A physician at an Athens, Tenn. hospital and his family were killed Sunday when their small aircraft crashed into a Boston-area home Sunday, hospital officials said.

Dr. Joseph "Rick" Kalister, the emergency room director at Starr Regional Medical Center's Athens campus, was killed along with his wife, Betty, and their college-aged daughter, Nicole, when their Beechcraft BE36 apparently lost power.

The family leaves behind an older daughter, who did not go on the trip, said Blake McCaslin, director of business development at the hospital.

Hospital workers were in a state of shock Monday, he said.

"This will be a huge mourning process," McCaslin said. "It will take a long time for people to function in the normal way without his smile behind the desk. He touched every area of this hospital."

Kalister's wife, Betty, was a yoga teacher in the Farragut area. Nicole graduated high school this year and was planning to attend a university in the Boston area. 

The Kalisters, who lived about 30 minutes away from Athens in Farragut, Tenn., were flying to Boston to get Nicole to set up before school began, McCaslin said.

He said Kalister was an experienced pilot who had flown since his days in the military.

The aircraft crashed into the house at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday, an Federal Aviation Administration official told The Associated Press. It had taken off from Lancaster Airport in Pennsylvania and was headed to Norwood Memorial Airport in Massachusetts.

In audio footage of the Kalister's conversation with an air traffic controller released Monday, he calmly says he has no engine power and is gliding.

At one point, the air traffic controller tells the pilot to look for a highway to land on, suggesting Interstate 495. The pilot replies that he is trying to get there.

Residents of the struck home in Plainville, Mass. managed to flee as fire engulfed the home, the AP reported.

The plane wound up behind the two-story colonial, where a section of the tail and a charred wing rested on a hillside in the yard.

Kalister had worked at Starr Regional/Athens Regional Medical Center since 2001. He was also a reserve officer with the local police department.

"He was always happy, always cheerful," McCaslin said. "He was very, very patient-centered. Instead of make a phone call or a fax, he would walk across the street to a patient's doctor to get more information about their case. If patients were admitted, he would check on them, making sure they had everything they needed. He was truly the kind of doctor you would want."

The hospital is providing grief counselors for staff members.

Kalister co-owned the plane with a family friend, Cleveland orthopedic physician Dr. Rickey Hutcheson. Reached Monday, Hutcheson's wife said her family was not ready to speak about the tragedy. 

Contact staff writer Kate Belz at kbelz@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673. 


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