ESPERANCE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – State Police and NTSB investigators are taking the lead on the investigation into the small plane crash in Schoharie County that left three dead and one severely injured Saturday afternoon.
Officials say four people took off in the small plane at Hogan Airport, a small private airport around 6:45 p.m.
News10 spoke with two people who live next door to the airport and watched the whole incident unfold.
Bill Trendell, who lives next door to the airport says he saw a pickup truck driving fast down the road. It stopped and the driver yelled to him that a plane had just crashed, less than a half-mile from his home.
The driver of the truck was the owner of Hogan Airport.
Trendell says the airport owner sped past into the airport.
The next thing he knew, police and fire crews were surrounding the area.
“I heard a lot of screaming and yelling, and a couple of bang, bang, bang, bangs, you know,” says Trendell.
His wife says she heard the same.
“Everybody hollering for help, you know, help, and then I heard a kaboom,” she says.
Now they know they saw the firetrucks because the aircraft was on fire.
Esperance Fire Chief Matthew Deffer says the plane did take off and go airborne, before it lost engine power and then crashed in the woods, about 1,000 feet from the runway.
Chief Deffer says he believes the only person to make it out of the plane alive was the pilot, a man the chief describes as in his 40s or 50s who was a trained pilot flying for years.
The pilot was originally transported by helicopter to Albany Medical Center, but was then transferred to the Westchester Medical Center Burn Unit late Saturday evening.
Chief Deffer says all four passengers were from out of state, and flew into Hogan Airport for a party hosted by the owners of the airfield.
The crash occurred on their way home the party.
“They did fly in on that plane and joined the family for a gathering and then they were just taking off to go home,” says Chief Deffer.
The Trendells say they see the airport’s owner and others fly in and out of the airport constantly and have never seen anything like the incident on Saturday.
Now that something terrible has happened, they are thinking of the families who lost their loved ones.
“It’s sad. It’s a bad thing,” says Bill Trendell. “I don’t know how it happened, it’s just too bad, but everybody here is going to keep living life, we have to.”
The owner of the airport says that for the nearly 20 years he has owned the airport, he’s never had anything like this happen.
Chief Deffer says protecting the area was a joint effort between multiple police and deputies and roughly ten fire departments.
“it was a great sacrifice that we could work together,” said Chief Deffer. “And you know make the best attempt to do what our job is and to protect and save a life.”
It’s going to take investigators time to go through the aircraft, says Chief Deffer.
Investigators are going to pull maintenance records, in an effort to find out exactly what happened.
Officials say recovering the aircraft could still take a couple more days.
Autopsies are schedule for Monday.