Relatives watching the flight from their home on a hill overlooking the field saw the crash and called for help, he said.
Crane, an owner of Mountainside Gardens nursery on South Main Street in Boonsboro, built the experimental plane from a kit about a year ago, Wetzel said.
It had recently been inspected and met all Federal Aviation Administration requirements, he said.
According to Crane's wife, the single-engine plane was up in the air less than five minutes when it went down at about 7:15 p.m., Wetzel said.
Laurie Crane said the plane appeared to be having engine problems, he said.
Firefighters couldn't determine if the fire started before or after the plane crashed, said Chief Leonard Heller Jr. of the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Department.
Because of dry conditions, firefighters' first concern was to put the fire out to prevent it from spreading to the corn, Heller said.
It took only a few moments, he said.
The FAA was called in to investigate the crash, Wetzel said.
Crane's body was sent to Baltimore for an autopsy, which is standard procedure in the event of a plane crash, he said.
Nancy Rider, who helped form a horticulture club with Laurie Crane, said she did not know either of them very well. But after years of buying plants at his business and helping out occasionally, she said she got the impression of a man who cared deeply about plants, planes and his two children.
"I have really been caught short by his death. I'm having a tough time grasping it," she said. "He seemed too young, and very vital."
Rider said Crane always asked about her children.
"He was a people person," she said.
Staff Writer Brendan Kirby contributed to the story.