Oregon Public Broadcasting

Investigators are mapping wreckage from the mid-air crash of two small airplanes over Champoeg State Park Tuesday. As Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, one person died.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator, Josh Cawthra, is looking into the collision between a twin-engine Piper and a single engine Beech. He says it happened in clear skies at about 4:20 Tuesday afternoon.

Josh Cawthra: "All major structural components of both aircraft have been located within the debris path. It's currently scattered a mile and a half square area. So myself, investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, and Piper aircraft are going to be on screen, documenting the debris path and collecting all the perishable evidence."

The Piper airplane managed to land and the pilot and a flight student were unhurt. Investigators said they don't know who was in control of that plane at the time.

But Stephen Watson, who was in the Beech, died.

Watson, a 58-year-old from Beaverton, retired from the Oregon State Police nine years ago and had been working for the University of Portland as a safety officer.

Oregon State Police Lieutenant Greg Hastings, says Watson was quiet, but could light up a room when he smiled. 

Greg Hastings: "I remember Stephen and others that I've talked to remember him as well as a very quite, calm, competent leader. He was a top notch Oregon State Police Trooper and Sergeant. He will be missed by those that knew him on our department."

Authorities will now be interviewing survivors to collect radar data and any radio messages from yesterday. They'll also be talking to witnesses. But so far, it's unknown why the two planes collided. 

Oregon State Parks spokesman, Chris Havel, says people on the ground were lucky.

Chris Havel: "Champoeg State Park had campers in the park last night. We have no reports of injuries. There were reports of minor property damage. The park is closed now. We're taking all of the campers who were still with us. There were 16 sites occupied last night. We're emptying those out. The park is going to be closed until further notice."

That's so authorities can document the wreckage. 

Incoming campers are being helped to find other accommodations.

The NTSB is expected to have a preliminary report by next week.

This story originally appeared on news.opb.org.