Prominent Area Heart Doctor, 15-Year-Old Son Die in Plane Crash

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 17, 2008

Hector Collison, a prominent Washington area cardiologist, and his 15-year-old son were killed about midnight Friday night when their single-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Front Royal, Va., authorities said.

Collison, 54, had picked up his son Sean in Front Royal, where he was a student at Randolph-Macon Academy, and the two were to fly to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, according to authorities.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said the crash occurred about two minutes after their plane took off from the Front Royal-Warren County Airport. According to a flight plan, takeoff was to be between 11:50 and 11:55 p.m. Friday.

The plane crashed in a remote, wooded area near Massanutten Mountain, according to the FAA. Sgt. F.L. Tyler, public information officer for the Virginia State Police's Culpeper office, said the plane apparently caught fire on impact.

State police said the plane was a Cirrus SR22, which is known as a sophisticated aircraft and is equipped with a parachute to slow its descent in emergencies.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

Dr. Collison had practiced for years at Washington Hospital Center and at several locations in the Maryland suburbs.

People who knew him said he and his family had recently moved to a house he had built in Potomac as the culmination of a longtime dream.

"It's going to be a very big loss to the Washington metropolitan area," said Andrea E. Davis, a registered cardiovascular specialist who worked with him for nine years at the hospital.

She called him a "Renaissance man and multifaceted" talent who brought a high level of expertise and the latest in medical technology to a large roster of patients. She said he cared for people "in the limelight and people who were not," treating them all the same.

Manuel Angelo, who also worked with Collison at the hospital, called him a great doctor and human being. He was known for his concern for his patients, who, in turn, adored him, Angelo said.

Francis Hinton of Bowie said he had been a patient of Collison's for five or six years. The doctor "took his patients seriously and told you what to do to get your life together," Hinton said.

He was "an all-around nice guy" whose patients "were all pleased with him," Hinton said. "He was my man."

Among Collison's specialties was performing emergency procedures to unclog the blocked arteries that cause severe chest pain and heart attacks. In a 2004 publication of the Anne Arundel Medical Center, he said that "the greatest joy I have -- except for getting a kiss from some of my 80- and 90-year-old patients -- is the smile on the face of someone whose artery has just opened.

"The pain is gone. It's immediate satisfaction for them and the greatest reward for me."

Celeste Brooks, director of public relations at Randolph-Macon, said the college prep school "was deeply saddened" by Sean's death.

She said he had just transferred for the second semester of his sophomore year.

Brooks said he was enrolled in the Air Force cadet program at Randolph-Macon. A memorial service will be held at the school this morning in place of the regular chapel service.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company