Knox County judge positively identified as fatal plane crash victim

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — A Knox County judge has been positively identified as the victim of a fatal plane crash in Lawrence County, Illinois.

Lawrence County Coroner Shannon R. Steffey was able to identify Judge Ryan Johanningsmeier as the pilot and only person on the plane.

Sullivan County authorities received a 911 call shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday when Johanningsmeier failed to arrive at the Lawrence County Airport. He had stopped briefly at the Sullivan County airport to refuel.

A search began on the land between the airports, with assistance being requested from an Indiana State Police helicopter but it was reportedly too foggy for take off.

The wreckage was found around 8 a.m. approximately 3 miles from the Lawrence County airport.

Johanningsmeier served as a Knox County Superior II Court Judge for almost 6 years, where he began a drug court to help those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.

“The Indiana Judiciary sends its condolences to Knox Superior Court 2 Judge Ryan Johanningsmeier’s family and community,” Loretta H. Rush, Indiana Chief Justice said in a statement. “His tragic death leaves his staff and loved ones in mourning and we join them. As a problem-solving court judge he helped provide defendants with a new path in life allowing those most in need of restorative justice to work for a better tomorrow. As his loved-ones mourn his passing, we express our sincere sympathy.”

Johanningsmeier’s death left a ballot vacancy for Knox County Superior Court 2 during the upcoming General Election. Individuals interested in filling this vacancy must be a Knox County resident and must hold an Indiana law license.

Interested candidates must submit a Declaration of Candidacy Form CAN 31 to the Indiana State Election Division and a Statement of Economic Interest Form to the Indiana Commission of Judicial Qualifications. Paperwork, along with a letter of interest, must be emailed to Knox County Republican Chair, Linda Painter at no later than 5 p.m. Friday.

An Order was granted Tuesday by the Indiana Supreme Court Judge Sherry B. Gregg Gilmore and Judge Gara U. Lee to exercise general jurisdiction over Knox Superior Court 2 until a Pro Tempore judge is appointed.

Arrangements for Johanningsmeier are pending with the Fredrick & Son McClure-Utt Funeral Homes.

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