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Authorities at plane crash site look for body

May 25, 2013
Updated 10:08 p.m.
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First responders and the county coroner meet outside the town barn. (Photo by Bethany Bump)
First responders and the county coroner meet outside the town barn. (Photo by Bethany Bump)

— Authorities searched a small reservoir today for the pilot in Friday’s deadly plane crash in the town of Ephratah, but a body was not recovered by 9 p.m..

Two bodies 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 on Sunday.

The search picked up around 8 a.m. today, with rescue workers primarily focused on the reservoir known locally as the Garoga Dam — by Murray Hill Road in the hamlet of Rockwood. A dive team remained out 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 this 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 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 by 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. “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.

There is no word yet as to what caused the crash. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause, and could not be reached Saturday.

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.

A sheriff’s patrol car blocked access this morning 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 Ranger and local volunteers.

Fulton County Sheriff Tom Lorey declined to comment Saturday morning. 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 today said no such conference would take place.

 
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