Carson man killed in African plane crash |

Carson man killed in African plane crash

Jeff Munson

John Hartman, a former Carson City resident and 1980 graduate of Carson High School, was the sole American who died in a Jan. 30 plane crash off the Ivory Coast.

Kenya Airways Flight 431 went down off the African coast, killing 169 people and leaving 10 survivors. Hartman, who was to turn 38 on March 2, was flying to Lagos, Nigeria, for a business meeting when the plane crashed into the ocean after one minute in the air.

For about a year and a half, Hartman and his wife Miriam had been working as plant scientists in Uganda, according to his brother, David Hartman of Gardnerville. Hartman’s wife was not on the flight.

Hartman was employed by IITA, a research company, and his job was to genetically alter banana plants by injecting substances that would inoculate Ugandans, David said.

“My brother was the kind of man who would give his shirt off his back to anyone who knew him. And, in a way, he gave his life to the people of Africa,” David said.

Hartman is survived by his parents, John and Sandy Hartman of Vacaville, Calif., wife Miriam, daughter Clara, 6, and son Noah, 2, as well as siblings David and Tammy Hartman, who is from Virginia.

The Hartmans returned to the United States for Christmas in 1998 and spent several days with David in Gardnerville.

“We did a lot of catching up on old times,” David said. “He told me about the project he was working on and how the kids were doing.”

David Hartman described his brother as both courageous, and a “genuine family man.”

“We would correspond, and he would write and tell us that Noah, his son, took his first steps or something about his daughter,” his brother said. “Or he would call us to see how things were at home.”

Hartman grew up in Carson City and graduated from Carson High in 1980. He was active in swimming, and worked as a lifeguard at the Carson City Aquatic Facility.

Following high school, Hartman went on to the University of Nevada, Reno, where he graduated in 1986. Following graduation, he spent two years in Kampala, Africa, with the Peace Corps and returned to the United States to get his master’s degree at Florida State University. He received his doctorate in plant science from University of California, Davis.

Hartman took the job with IITA and moved his family to Uganda, where Miriam also worked as a plant scientist.

“To describe the type of person he was, I must say that what he did for a living says a lot about his character,” David said. “With his background, he could have gone on and lived comfortably anywhere he wanted in the United States. But that’s not who he was. He wanted to help other people.”

Hartman’s parents are currently in Uganda and will return this summer. Memorial services are expected sometime in July.