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What you need to know for 01/18/2017

Sunday's plane crash victims identified

Sunday's plane crash victims identified

An Amsterdam doctor, a hotel group owner and an 11-year-old boy were identified Monday as the victim
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An Amsterdam doctor, a hotel group owner and an 11-year-old boy were identified Monday as the victims in the weekend plane crash into the Mohawk River.

Mathai Kolath George, 41, of Rexford, his son George Kolath, 11, and St. Mary’s Hospital doctor Krishnan Raghavan, 52, of West Glenville, were killed when their small plane crashed just after takeoff Sunday afternoon.

George was licensed as a student pilot by the Federal Aviation Administration, records show. George also owned the plane. With him was Raghavan, a certified commercial pilot and certified instructor, records show.

Who was in control of the plane, however, remained unclear Monday.

A state police spokesman said they believe it was George, based on a photo taken just prior to takeoff. A Federal Aviation Administration official, however, cautioned against reaching such a conclusion based on a photograph, noting the plane can be piloted from both front seats.

The investigation into why the plane went down continued Monday morning with the recovery of the single-engine Piper Cherokee from the river. Recovered inside was the body of George, the last of the three victims to be found. The bodies of young Kolath and Raghavan were pulled from the plane Sunday evening.

The plane was taken to the Schenectady County Airport for further investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board is heading the investigation.

Autopsies on the victims were scheduled for Monday evening, state police said. Results were not expected until today.

George family members were near the site when the plane was removed. Brother-in-law Anil Paulose left the scene just before noon.

“We are here to know the details,” Paulose told The Daily Gazette as he and another man left. “We’re totally devastated.”

Regarding the child, one of six George children, Paulose said, “He was a good boy. He was good at everything — sports, academics.”

George, under the name George M. Kolath, was also the president and CEO of Kolath Hospitality Group. He founded the group in 1994 as a real estate private equity fund, according to its Web site.

George also owned the palatial Llenroc estate on the banks of the Mohawk River. The estate was constructed in 1992 by insurance magnates Albert and Barbara Lawrence. The home was up for sale for $30 million, according to a Kolath Hospitality Web site.

Perishing with the father and son was Raghavan, a native of India, who practiced medicine in Kenya and France before coming to the United States, according to his obituary. The father of two teenagers, Raghavan enjoyed flying, scuba diving and sailing.

He was a doctor in Amsterdam for more than seven years, focusing on respiratory problems, St. Mary’s Hospital officials said. In a statement to staff, St. Mary’s president Victor Giulianelli said Raghavan’s death has caused a “profound sense of shock and sadness.

“Dr. Raghavan combined a near bottomless fund of knowledge with the desire to share what he knew with others,” Giulianelli said. “His clinical leadership and his wry sense of humor cannot be replaced.”

A memorial service was expected in the coming days.

Raghavan had been a member of the Capital Region-based Condair Flyers club for at least 10 years.

Fellow pilot Ken Haefner of Schenectady flew with Raghavan a half-dozen times, calling Raghavan a good pilot.

“He was a nice guy, very friendly,” Haefner said. “He loved flying.”

“I don’t understand what happened,” Haefner added later. “That’s something for the NTSB.”

The crash happened just beyond the runway at the Mohawk Valley Airport off Route 5 in Glenville. The airport provides a grass strip listed at 1,840 feet long.

The airport is the base for Mohawk Valley Skydivers. A skydiving instructor Sunday said it was unusual to have a low-wing aircraft at the airport, because such aircraft generally need more lift.

Haefner, a pilot for decades, said Monday the plane should have had no trouble taking off there.

Mike Townsend, a Schenectady pilot who has flown from the airport, said the runway isn’t as long compared to other airports, but that shouldn’t have been a problem.

“It’s pretty short compared to Schenectady County [Airport], but there should have been plenty of room for a general aviation plane like they were flying,” he said.

Townsend declined to speculate on what may have caused the accident. He runs an aerial photography business and is also a freelance instructor.

Another factor at a grass airport is moisture on the turf, Townsend said. Moisture can slow a plane on takeoff. But Sunday was generally dry.

The plane was pulled from the river Monday largely intact. Its right wing appeared dented but in one piece.

A state Canal Authority barge, generally used for setting buoys, pulled the plane out, tail up, just before 11 a.m.

Divers from the state police and Albany County Sheriff’s Department helped in the recovery, state police Lt. George Port said.

“The water was very murky. The visibility was extremely poor,” Port said.

The canal between Locks 8 and 9 was closed to boating during the effort but reopened Monday afternoon.

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