Tom Coble, founder and president of Coble Trench Safety, a Greensboro, N.C.-based multi-location rental company specializing in trench and traffic safety equipment rentals, was killed Jan. 20 when his plane crashed right outside a regional airport in Rainbow City, Ala. Coble, a veteran of 40 years of flying experience, was flying alone after his L-39 Albatross fighter jet underwent routine service and maintenance in Gadsden, Ala.
Less than a minute after takeoff, the plane burst into flames and came down in a wooded, marshy area about two miles from the airport. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined and is being investigated.
Coble, 58, loved flying, owned several planes, and often joked that he stayed in business only to support his flying habit.
Coble started in the rental business with Coble Cranes & Equipment/Coble Rents, which he sold in 1999. In 2002, Coble founded Coble Trench Safety and grew the company to 11 branches, on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic region.
Coble began his career as a pilot and served as executive pilot for the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Cable began looking into the construction equipment industry while waiting for Falwell at regional airports, and would call local construction firms to see if they were interested in buying or selling equipment. He eventually founded his equipment company.
Among numerous honors, Coble received the 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
“The employees of Coble Trench Safety have lost a remarkable leader,” said Steve Barnhardt, CTS regional manager. “Tom was a man of conviction, faith and integrity. He will be greatly missed.”
Coble is survived by his wife Debby Coble, his parents, son Matt, daughter Misty Hedspetch and three grandchildren. Matt Coble will immediately assume the role of president of CTS.