The body of plane crash victim Frank Amerosa lay unnoticed under a crushed freezer within feet of passing search parties for three weeks, authorities said Thursday, a day after his body was found.
“[Amerosa] landed on the freezer,” Fulton County Sheriff Tom Lorey said, “and the weight of the fall collapsed it around him. A foot on either side and he would have been clearly visible.”
A small twin-engine aircraft carrying Amerosa, 64, and his wife, Evelyn, 58, piloted by John Campbell, 70, of Stamford, Conn., went down near the hamlet of Rockwood the evening of May 24.
It was an Angel Flight, set up by a nonprofit organization to get Amerosa from his brain cancer treatment in Boston back home to Utica, where the Amerosas lived.
The bodies of Evelyn Amerosa and Campbell were found near Granny’s Ice Cream on Route 29 early on, but a weeks-long search involving more than 100 volunteers and thousands of man hours was unable to locate Frank Amerosa.
Garoga Pond was even drained to facilitate the search.
Lorey said the owner of Granny’s Ice Cream, Tom Dudley, noticed the old freezer on the back of his property didn’t look right around 3 p.m. Wednesday. He went to investigate, found the unit had been crushed from above, and called the authorities.
Fulton County Coroner Margaret Luck confirmed Thursday afternoon the body was that of Frank Amerosa.
“It was just a normal [freezer],” said Dudley’s wife, Joan Dudley. “We moved it out back until we could get rid of it. It was only about 150 feet from the ice cream shop.”
The Dudleys were thrust into the incident when Joan Dudley witnessed the aircraft falling apart in midair overhead. She said one of the wings was gone, and described the plane cartwheeling into the trees across the road.
She saw the crash, but evidently missed the falling body. Immediately afterward, she and other witnesses described a sound like an explosion while the doomed aircraft was still in the sky.
“That actually explains some things,” Lorey said.
“There was no evidence of an explosion when we pulled the craft from the pond. Hindsight tells me that sound was Amerosa hitting the freezer.”
Joan Dudley said the body was totally concealed by the smashed appliance, but Lorey was still not sure how his search teams missed it.
“It’s a strange phenomenon,” he said. “We searched that area multiple times. We had K-9 units out there.”
Another large search had been scheduled for Saturday, but was canceled when the body was found.
The National Transportation Safety Board released no further information as to the cause of the crash Thursday.