After locating the wreckage of a F-51 Mustang that took the life of Medina County native Robert Hartman in 1951 about three years ago, Pete Esterle, 62, of Uniontown would like to give a small piece of the wreckage to Hartmans living relatives.
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Three years ago, Pete Esterle used an old Air Force report to locate the remnants of a military plane crash took the life of Medina County native Lt. Robert Hartman. Now, he wants to give a piece of the wreckage to a family member of Hartman.
“It is just pieces, it crashed so hard, I’ve never seen a crash that hard,” the Uniontown resident said Wednesday of the remnants of Hartman’s F-51 Mustang that he collected from the crash site.
Esterle, 62, who began searching out old airplane crash sites in Florida with his brother during the 1990s, read about Hartman’s crash in a book by Jeff Wadley and Dwight McCarter, “Mayday! Mayday! Aircraft Crashes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1920-2000.”
“I have the crash report from the Air Force and they have a general description of where it is located. They don’t tell you exactly,” Esterle said.
He made three unsuccessful attempts to find the wreckage of Hartman’s F-51 Mustang in Blount County, Tenn.
It was not until recently that Hartman realized the lone victim of the 1951 crash was a Medina County native.
“Probably within the last six months I looked through the crash report again and I realized (it),” he said.
According to the crash report, Hartman was flying out of Mansfield, which is where Esterle began his search for relatives.
After he found a burial record for Hartman, Esterle was able to narrow his search to Medina County.
“Through the internet, I came across that gravesite that said he was from Medina. Then I found a bunch of articles from that period that talk about the plane crash and the search for the guy,” he said.
According to Esterle’s death certificate, he was born in Lodi on Jan. 17, 1921, and his address at the time of his death at age 30 was 573 S. Broadway St., Medina.
He was buried in Medina’s Spring Grove Cemetery on April 6, 1951.
Esterle said he has a small piece of the aircraft’s cockpit, the light control switch panel, that he would to give to one of Hartman’s relatives.
“It is a piece of history that family can relate to,” he said.
“I am sure they have heard stories about their uncle or whoever it would be that died in a plane crash, and this would bring back a tangible piece of that history.”
Interested family members can contact Esterle at (330) 352-9824.