MT. PLEASANT, Wis. (CBS/WBBM) — The recently-retired CEO of a truck trailer manufacturing business is being hailed as a hero for guiding his plane away from a subdivision as it crashed near Racine, claiming his life.

Police in Mt. Pleasant, Wis., said that the plane, owned by the victim, 76-year-old Phillip Pines, of Highland Park, crashed in an open field,.

The field was less than a quarter mile west of a subdivision and about 2-1/2 miles short of the runway at Batten Airport, in Racine.

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No one else was on board the eight-seat plane. Pines was returning from his Riverside Farm near Mosinee, Wis., about 270 miles northwest of Chicago.

“Mr. Pines acted in a heroic manner by attempting to land the plane in an area that was open and avoided several populated subdivisions not far from where the crash occurred,” said Mt. Pleasant Police Capt. Brian Smith, in a release.

Pines had reported that he had lost power and was losing altitude, and had requested clearance to land at the nearest airport.

“This crash could have resulted in numerous injuries and possible further loss of life if the plane would have crashed less than a quarter mile away,” Smith said.

Pines had been an avid pilot for nearly 20 years, according to a video produced for Great Dane Trailers, the business that Pines headed as president and chief executive officer until his retirement at the end of 2010.

He was en route from Central Wisconsin Airport, in Mosinee, to Waukegan at the time of the crash.

Great Dane issued a statement in which Pines’ longtime partner and successor as president, William Crown, said he was “deeply saddened by his passing. Phill will be truly missed.”

He is survived by his wife, Joan, who was his college sweetheart at the University of Michigan, according to Great Dane.

Pines joined an expanding truck-trailer repair and manufacturing business founded by his father, Leo Pines, and led Pines Trailer Corp. for more than 20 years before forming a partnership with Chicago’s Crown family. The company acquired Great Dane Trailers, which was merged with Pines.

Great Dane said that Pines was active in improving the ecology of the Wisconsin River, which runs through Riverside Farm, and in establishing habitat for migrating sand hill cranes.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

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