Search on for third plane crash victim
EPHRATAH Authorities searched a small reservoir Saturday for the pilot in Friday’s deadly plane crash in the town of Ephratah, but a body was not recovered.
The bodies of two passengers on the plane were recovered Friday evening, but their identities have not been released. The missing pilot is believed to be dead.
According to the Facebook page of the Rockwood–Garoga–Lassellsville Volunteer Fire Company, the search for the pilot will continue today.
The search picked up around 8 a.m. on Saturday, with rescue workers primarily focused on the reservoir known locally as the Garoga Dam near Murray Hill Road in the hamlet of Rockwood. A dive team remained there into the afternoon, but Town Supervisor Todd Bradt said no one was really sure if that’s where the body would be since the debris field was so spread out.
“This could take all day,” he said early Saturday morning, as a steady rain fell. “They can’t see anything. They don’t know if it’s even in there. They don’t know where it is.”
At around noon, crews were working to extract the fuselage from the dam, which is run by Brookfield Power Corp. through National Grid, said Bradt.
About a dozen officials first gathered at the R-G-L fire department building on Route 29 before splitting up equipment and personnel between two command centers — one at the Ephratah Town Barn on Route 10 and one at Granny’s Ice Cream Shanty on Route 29 near the Royal Mountain Campsite.
Granny’s owner Joan Dudley told The Associated Press that she and her employees were among the first at the scene Friday night.
“We were just leaving to get something to eat, and we heard this noise,” Dudley said.
“We looked up and saw the plane flipping in the air. Then it fell apart,” she said. “Parts and pieces of it were flying through the sky, and a body fell out.”
They called 911 as they parked their car and ran to the crash site in the rain to see if they could rescue anyone.
“Airplane parts were all over the place,” she said Saturday. “They were picking them up all over last night.”
The small aircraft — a twin-engine Piper PA 34 — crashed at around 5:10 p.m. Friday across from the ice cream shop in a wooded area south of Route 29 that is bordered on the west by Route 10. Three people were on the plane, which the Federal Aviation Administration said was en route from Bedford, Mass., to Oneida County Airport in Rome.
The plane was flown by a volunteer with Angel Flight, a nonprofit group that provides free air service to financially strapped patients who need diagnosis or non-emergency treatment. They also fly families out to medical facilities, people who are unable to use public transportation because of their medical condition or those who live in remote areas where public transportation is not available, according to the organization’s website.
Angel Flight didn’t provide any additional information on Saturday.
A sheriff’s patrol car blocked access Saturday to a driveway at 3781 Route 10, a private residence across from the town barn and near the reservoir where rescue workers operated ATVs and trucks. At around 9 a.m., most of the search crew had left this command area and moved down the road to access the dam from a private residence across from Granny’s.
Agencies assisting in the search include Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Rockwood-Garoga-Lasselsville Volunteer Fire Co., Montgomery County Emergency Services, New York State Police, New York State Forest Rangers and local volunteers.
Jonathan Souza, who works for the Ambulance Service of Fulton County, according to his Facebook page, posted on Saturday night how proud he was of the people participating in the search effort.
“To see the people in this town and county come together like they have the past two days, and like I know they will in the following days, makes me proud to say who I am and where I’m from,” Souza posted on his page.
Fulton County Sheriff Tom Lorey declined to comment Saturday. Three reporters showed up to the R-G-L. Fire Department in Rockwood at 8 a.m., having been told a news conference would be held, but officials at the scene said no such conference would take place.
There is no word yet as to what caused the crash. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating and could not be reached Saturday.