The Newport News plane crash that killed one person and seriously injured two Hampton University students happened when an in-flight student increased altitude too rapidly during takeoff, causing the aircraft to stall the plane, according to Virginia State Police.
Investigators have identified the deceased as 23-year-old Viktoria Theresie Izabelle Ljungman of Williamsburg, who was a licensed commercial pilot and flight instructor for the other two passengers who were in aviation class. The student pilot was Oluwagbohunmi Ayomide Oyebode, 18, of Hanover, Maryland. Police have not named the other injured 18-year-old flight student.
The plane crashed shortly after takeoff Thursday afternoon from Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, hitting an embankment beside the runway.
Hampton University has a partnership with the Rick Aviation Flight School, which is based out of the airport, in its Bachelor of Science in Aviation program. The flight school website lists Ljungman as a flight instructor.
A flight school staff member declined to comment on Friday’s accident.
Oyebode and the other 18-year-old are students at Hampton University, a school spokesperson confirmed. Both were taken to Riverside Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries; Oyebode was later transferred to VCU Medical Center in Richmond.
Ljungman, originally from Sweden, graduated from Hampton University and played on the women’s tennis team.
Charlie Hudson, a former Hampton University tennis player who graduated in 2019, said the tight-knit and largely international squad were in shock.
“We really were each other’s family,” Hudson said Friday. Although the pandemic has scattered many team members and alumni around the world, team members have reached out to each other since learning of Ljungman’s death, he said.
“I remember when I first met her, that’s all she ever wanted to do. She wanted to be a commercial pilot,” Hudson said.
The team used to joke that when a player who dreamed of being a billionaire got big, he would provide the private jet and Ljungman would be his pilot, Hudson recalls.
Federal Aviation Administration records show Ljungman earned his commercial pilot license in March 2021 and his flight instructor license in April 2022.
“I don’t remember her ever smiling,” Hudson said. “She was just infectious in her energy, just nice to be around.”
Ljungman chronicled her journey to becoming a pilot on her Instagram account, @Viktoriathepilot, where she shared views from inside and outside the cockpit.
“She was just… such a pure soul that she seemed so innocent,” Hudson said. “The way she presents herself on social media … was the way she was in person. I think it’s pretty rare these days to find someone who looks alike, both in person and online.
The crash happened around 3:03 p.m. Thursday. The airport was then closed for about two hours.
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As he tried to take off in the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, Oyebode tried to pull the plane at “too steep an angle,” according to Michelle Anaya, a spokeswoman for the state police. This caused the plane to stall at an altitude of around 100ft and then “dived” into a ditch beside the runway, Anaya said.
Hudson, who has spoken to other members of the aviation program since the crash, said the incident tested the confidence of many.
“I think everyone’s a bit lost,” Hudson said. “Students, you know, they doubt they want to be a pilot just because…being a pilot is very dangerous. ‘after what I heard.
Hampton University canceled classes on Friday and held a Friday morning prayer service for students and faculty, according to a Hampton University Student Government Association Instagram post.
The Federal Aviation Administration is assisting Virginia State Police with the investigation.
Pierre Gavin, 757-712-4806, [email protected]
Katrina Dix, [email protected]