Frank and Evelyn Amerosa boarded a small, twin-engine aircraft at Boston’s Hanscom Field Friday afternoon.
It was raining, but they weren’t bothered. They had good news.
Just hours before takeoff, a specialist told them Frank’s brain cancer may not be fatal thanks to an experimental new treatment.
Family members said Sunday that Frank, 64 and Evelyn, 58 were happy, but never found time to celebrate. A few hundred miles into the flight, less than an hour from their Utica home, the plane crashed, killing them and the pilot.
Authorities, gathered in the Rockwood-Garoga-Lassellsville fire station on Route 29 near the crash site, released the victims’ names Sunday afternoon and said the Piper PA 34 was piloted by John Campbell, 70, of Stamford, Conn. Campbell was a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight Northeast, a nonprofit group that arranges free air transportation for the sick.
Since the plane went down, just outside the hamlet of Rockwood between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Friday, more than 100 volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel have searched the area.
The fuselage was found at the bottom of the Garaga Reservoir, but was deemed unstable and has not yet been fully investigated by divers.
The bodies of Evelyn Amerosa and Campbell were both found shortly after the crash, but Frank Amerosa is still missing and presumed dead. Authorities on Sunday corrected earlier reports that the Amerosas’ bodies were found but the pilot was missing.
“We’ve covered 2,000 acres on foot,” said Forest Ranger Lt. Stephen Preston, “We’ll keep searching until we find everyone.”
Preston said that Saturday and Sunday morning search efforts were conducted on a near shoulder-to-shoulder walking grid pattern over parts of the 5-mile-long debris field. During a brief break in the weather, the foot search was bolstered by a state police helicopter hovering over the crash site.
While authorities are concentrated on finding the third victim, the incident is still under official investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. As of Sunday, the cause of the crash was still unclear.
Witnesses described the plane breaking apart.
“I was just getting into my car,” said Joan Dudley, “when I heard these three big pops, like three crushing sort of sounds and the plane came overhead.”
Dudley has owned and operated Granny’s Ice Cream for 25 years. She was leaving Friday evening when the plane arched overhead, falling to pieces in the air.
She described the aircraft as just a fuselage and right wing, doing cartwheels into the trees.
“Right over there,” she said, pointing across Route 29. “It came down right over those trees.”
As volunteers in bright reflective jackets combed the woods, family members of the victims gathered at the Amerosa home in Utica to grieve between calls from news media.
Family members said Frank, an ex-Marine and retired truck driver was recently diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer. At first the prognosis wasn’t good, but over the past few months an experimental treatment became available in Boston.
Albany attorney and Angel Flight volunteer pilot Terence Kindlon flew the couple to Boston early Friday morning.
“We were both former Marines and had been in Vietnam,” Kindlon said of Frank Amerosa in an Associated Press interview. “We hit it right off.”
On the way back to the airport to board their ill-fated Angel Flight trip home after their appointment, Evelyn texted her daughter Heather Theobald, according to a family friend who didn’t want to give his name. The message said the new treatment had given them hope, and that they would be taking off in the rain, an experience she said would be “an adventure.”