‘Contagious in her energy’: Flight instructor killed in crash that injured 2 Hampton University students remembered

The Newport News plane crash that killed one person and seriously injured two Hampton University students occurred when a flight student increased altitude too quickly during takeoff, causing the plane to stall, according to Virginia State Police.

Investigators identified the deceased as 23-year-old Viktoria Theresie Izabelle Ljungman of Williamsburg, who was a licensed commercial pilot and the flight instructor for the other two passengers who were in an aviation class. The student pilot was 18-year-old Oluwagbohunmi Ayomide Oyebode of Hanover, Maryland. Police have not named the other injured 18-year-old flight student.

The plane crashed shortly after takeoff Thursday afternoon from the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, slamming into an embankment next to the runway.

Hampton University has a partnership with the Rick Aviation Flight School, which is based out of the airport, as part of its Bachelor of Science aviation degree program. The flight school’s website lists Ljungman as a flight instructor.

A staff member at the flight school declined to comment on the crash Friday.

Oyebode and the other 18-year-old man are students at Hampton University, a spokesperson for the school confirmed. Both were taken to Riverside Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries; Oyebode was later transferred to VCU Medical Center in Richmond.

Ljungman, who was from Sweden, was a Hampton University graduate and had competed on the women’s tennis team.

Charlie Hudson, a former Hampton University tennis player who graduated in 2019, said the close-knit, largely international team is in shock.

“We were really each other’s family,” Hudson said Friday. Though the pandemic scattered many team members and alumni around the globe, team members have been reaching out to one another since they heard 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 had dreams of being a billionaire made it big, they’d provide the private jet, and Ljungman would be their pilot, Hudson recalled.

Federal Aviation Administration records show Ljungman obtained her commercial pilot’s license in March 2021 and her flight instructor license in April 2022.

“I don’t remember her ever not smiling,” Hudson said. “She was just contagious in her energy, just lovely to be around.”

Ljungman chronicled her journey to become 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. “How she presents herself on social media ... was how she was in person. I think that’s quite rare these days, to find someone who’s like for like, both in person and online.”

The crash occurred about 3:03 p.m. Thursday. The airport was closed for about two hours afterward.

While attempting to take off in the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, Oyebode tried to pull the plane up at “too steep of an angle,” according to Michelle Anaya, a state police spokesperson. This caused the plane to stall at an altitude of about 100 feet and it then “dove” into a ditch next to the runway, Anaya said.

Hudson, who has spoken to some other members of the aviation program since the crash, said the incident has challenged the confidence of many.

“I think everyone’s a little bit lost,” Hudson said. “The students, you know, they have self doubts about wanting to become a pilot just because ... being a pilot is very dangerous. I think just confidence is taking the biggest hit at the moment, both in department and in the students from what I’ve heard.”

Hampton University canceled classes Friday and organized a prayer service Friday morning for students and faculty, according to an Instagram post from Hampton University Student Government Association.

The Federal Aviation Administration is assisting Virginia State Police in the investigation.

Gavin Stone, 757-712-4806, gavin.stone@virginiamedia.com

Katrina Dix, katrina.dix@virginiamedia.com