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Originally published June 18, 2014 at 6:56 PM | Page modified June 19, 2014 at 5:26 PM

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Crash of ‘dream plane’ in Oregon shatters Burien family

Benjamin Dressler, 15, of Burien, shared a love of planes with his maternal grandfather who learned to pilot when the boy was born. On Sunday, the two were taking a Father’s Day flight when the plane crashed less than a 1,000 yards off the Oregon coast.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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When Benjamin Dressler was born 15 years ago, his maternal grandfather had just started learning to fly.

As his grandfather’s skill increased so did the boy’s interest in all things aeronautical and over the years the two had many chances to share their love of planes, according to the teen’s father, James Dressler, of Burien.

It was not uncommon for Benjamin’s grandfather to zip up from Oregon in the “dream plane” he bought after his retirement and fly his grandson out to local towns for lunch, James Dressler said.

On Sunday, Benjamin and his grandfather, Richard Munger, 69, were taking an early-morning Father’s Day flight when the plane crashed less than 500 yards off the Oregon coast near Florence, Dressler said.

Munger’s body was recovered Sunday, but his grandson’s body remained missing Wednesday, Lane County officials said.

“What can you say?” Dressler said Wednesday. “One minute your family is normal, the next your child is gone. It’s devastating.”

According to Dressler, his son was an excellent student at the Raisbeck Aviation High School, a Highline Public Schools facility at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila. The school was established to prepare students for careers in the aviation industry.

The school’s principal could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

“He was so special and so advanced for his age,” James Dressler said of his son. “He did the right things and was making the right choices. He sought out knowledge and shared it with others. He worked very hard at school and now he is not going to benefit from all that work and all that potential.”

Benjamin had traveled to Florence with his mother to celebrate his grandfather’s wife’s 70th birthday over the weekend, according to Dressler.

Family members planned to meet and go for a walk on Sunday, but apparently, “the guys decided to go up in the plane instead,” Dressler said.

“But then they didn’t come back,” he said.

According to officials, the small, single-engine 1978 Grumman AA5 plummeted into the Pacific Ocean near the North Jetty of the Siuslaw River in Florence around 9:50 a.m., shortly after takeoff.

Dressler said witnesses told officials the plane started to go down and then pulled up. Then they heard the engine “pop” and saw the plane nose-dive into the sea, Dressler said.

The Coast Guard was there within 15 minutes and Munger’s body was recovered almost immediately, Dressler said.

He said his father-in-law had “obvious evidence of trauma all over his body” and could not be resuscitated.

Search-and-rescue teams scanned the water and shoreline but could not locate the teen. One of his shoes, however, was found, Dressler said.

“Because of the trauma to Rick’s body and because the debris was in such small pieces from the impact, they are assuming he did not survive,” Dressler said.

Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the accident and are trying to recover the engine and cockpit of the plane, Dressler said.

“I feel like the impact of this is beyond the magnitude of us just losing our child,” said Dressler, beginning to cry. “I feel like the world is profoundly affected by the loss of him and the things he might have invented, the things he might have done.

“I always thought this kid had fate on his side.”

Christine Clarridge can be reached at or 206-464-8983.

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