Monday, April 18, 2016

Cessna 172C Skyhawk, N1863Y: Fatal accident occurred April 18, 2016 in Westmoreland, Oneida County, New York

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board:


The private pilot was taking off for a personal flight from a private turf airstrip to return to his home base airport. He initiated takeoff with a 10° flap extension and about 1,130 ft of the 1,344 ft of usable runway remaining, despite a recommendation from the airstrip owner that he begin the takeoff from a point that would have provided an additional 200 feet of runway. After beginning the takeoff, and as the airplane approached the departure end of the runway, the aft fuselage bottom contacted the runway several times due to the pilot's control input, which likely slowed the airplane. Shortly after becoming airborne while in a nose-high attitude, the airplane entered an aerodynamic stall before colliding with a tree and then the ground. After coming to rest, all occupants were conscious and alert, but the rear seat occupant required assistance exiting the airplane. The pilot attempted to assist him from the wreckage, but an explosion occurred about that time. The pilot and rear seat occupant sustained burns and died 6 days and 1 day after the accident, respectively, due to their injuries from the fire.

Examination of the flight controls, engine, and engine accessories revealed no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction that would have precluded normal operation. Extensive heat damage to the engine and engine accessories precluded an operational test of the engine. A sound spectrum analysis of a video recording of the takeoff provided by the airstrip owner revealed that the reduced engine rpm near rotation was attributed to the slow airspeed and not a loss of engine power.

The airplane was within weight and center of gravity limits. Takeoff performance data for the airplane indicated that, given the weather at the time of the accident, the distance required for the airplane to take off was about 786 ft and to clear a 50-ft obstacle was about 1,370 ft with no flaps on a hard surface runway. The chart did not contain figures for a soft, grass runway, which would increase the takeoff distance. Flaps at 10° would decrease the ground run by about 10% but would the advantage was lost to climb over a 50-ft obstacle. A speed study using the video showed that the average groundspeed between becoming airborne and the time of impact was about 47 knots, or 54 mph, which was the stall speed at gross weight and 0° bank angle. Even if the pilot had used the full usable runway distance, his decision to takeoff on this runway was poor given the performance capabilities of the airplane and the fact that the grass runway would likely have increased the takeoff and climb distance beyond that available. Further, it is likely that the pilot, when he noted that the airplane was nearing the end of the runway, increased the airplane's pitch, which resulted in the tail dragging, and lifted off the airplane with inadequate airspeed and exceeded the airplane's critical angle of attack, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot's decision to takeoff on the grass runway given the conditions at the time; his excessive aft control input during the takeoff roll, which resulted in the aft fuselage contacting the runway surface; and his failure to attain sufficient airspeed and exceedance of the airplane's critical angle of attack, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall.


Airspeed - Not attained/maintained (Cause)
Angle of attack - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Aircraft control - Pilot (Cause)
Incorrect action performance - Pilot (Factor)
Planning/preparation - Pilot (Factor)
Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Factor)

Environmental issues

John M. Balio

James J. Kasperski

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Additional Participating Entities:  
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Albany, New York
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

John M. Balio:

Location: Westmoreland, NY
Accident Number: ERA16FA161
Date & Time: 04/18/2016, 1910 EDT
Registration: N1863Y
Aircraft: CESSNA 172
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Loss of control in flight
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 


On April 18, 2016, about 1910 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172C, N1863Y, collided with trees and terrain during takeoff from Sophie's Choice airstrip, Westmoreland, New York. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, one passenger sustained minor injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by postcrash fire. The airplane was being operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed near the accident site at the time and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which was destined for Griffiss International Airport (RME), Rome, New York.

Earlier that day, the accident pilot and the pilots of two other airplanes flew from a private airstrip near Poland, New York, to Boonville Inc., Airport (1NK7), Boonville, New York, where they landed uneventfully. The three airplanes subsequently departed from 1NK7 and flew to Sophie's Choice airstrip where they landed and secured their airplanes. The pilot-rated airstrip owner reported that, before departure, he suggested to the accident pilot that he begin the takeoff from at least just west of the "break" point of the runway, which allowed for about 1,344 ft of available runway (see figure 1).

Figure 1 - Airstrip Overview with Annotated Positions

The pilot of one of the airplanes that departed before the accident airplane reported seeing the accident airplane stopped on the side of the runway, about 1,150 ft from the departure end of the east runway (see figure 1). Using the radio frequency (122.7 MHz) that they had used throughout the day to communicate, he broadcast for the accident pilot to stop and not initiate takeoff from that point, but the accident pilot did not respond. He also attempted to communicate with the other pilot who had just departed, but he did not respond either.

The pilot-rated passenger onboard the accident airplane stated that, after boarding the airplane, the pilot started the engine and then taxied to the west portion of the runway for an intended takeoff to the east from the down-sloping runway. She indicated that the pilot did not discuss with the passengers where the takeoff should begin. She reported that the winds were calm and that the pilot performed a run-up while on the runway centerline. He initiated the takeoff with an unknown flap extension, and when the flight was past a road located immediately east of the departure end of the runway, she heard the stall warning horn chirp. She did not observe any engine indications and did not recall the airspeed at any time during the flight. When asked if the engine sound changed at any time during the flight, she responded that she did not perceive any change in sound at any time. She stated to an acquaintance postaccident that she and the pilot exited the airplane from the left door because of her inability to open the right door. Because the rear seat occupant needed help exiting the airplane, the pilot attempted to assist him. About that time, the airplane exploded.

The airstrip owner, who was located near the departure end of the runway, recorded the takeoff on his cellular phone. He stated that, during the accident airplane's takeoff roll, he noticed the flaps were extended between 10° and 20° and that the airplane became airborne when it was just past the windsock. He indicated that at no time did he hear any abnormal sounds from the engine, and after becoming airborne, it appeared to him that the airplane was "hanging on the propeller." He indicated that the airplane entered an incipient stall, with the left wing dropping, followed by the right wing. Based on a review of the video, following the sound of the impact, the airstrip owner stated, "…I told them to use more runway." He later reported going to the scene and talking with the female passenger and telling her he thought they should have initiated the takeoff from farther to the west, and she replied that they should have begun the takeoff from a point farther west of where they did.

The airstrip owner's wife, who was about 100 ft east from the airstrip owner, indicated that, as the airplane went past her position, she did not discern any unusual engine sounds.

A 911 call was made at 1912, and first responders were dispatched.


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. His most recent FAA first-class medical certificate was issued on August 31, 2015, with no limitations.

Including a 2.3-hour flight earlier that day, but excluding subsequent flights later that day, the pilot logged a total time of about 458 hours, 382 hours of which were in the accident airplane make and model and 298 hours of which were as pilot-in-command.

According to FAA records, the pilot-rated passenger in the right front seat held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. She estimated her total flight time was between 100 and 300 hours.


The four-seat, high-wing airplane was manufactured in 1962. It was powered by a 145-horsepower Continental O-300-D engine and equipped with a two-blade McCauley 1C172/EM7653 fixed-pitch propeller.

A review of the airplane's Type Certificate Data Sheet revealed that the maximum red line engine rpm was 2,700.

The maintenance records were reportedly in the airplane at the time of the accident. A review of documents provided by the facility that performed the airplane's last annual inspection revealed it was signed off as being completed on April 5, 2016, at an airframe total time of 3,302.55 hours. Based on pilot logbook entries, including the logged 2.3-hour flight earlier on the accident date but excluding the subsequent unlogged flights later that day, the airplane had been operated 6.2 hours since the annual inspection was completed.


The 1853 recorded weather at RME, located 7 nautical miles north-northeast from the accident site, included wind from 300° at 10 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, clear skies, temperature 20°C (or 68°F), dew point -01°C, and an altimeter setting of 30.13 inches of mercury. A review of an FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin pertaining to carburetor ice revealed that the atmospheric conditions at the time of the accident were not favorable for the formation of carburetor ice.

According to the airstrip owner, the wind at the time of the accident was nearly calm, or no more than 1 to 2 knots from the west.


The private, decommissioned airstrip had a grass runway oriented 8/26 and was about 1,980 ft long. A "break" near the west side of the runway allowed for a usable runway distance of 1,344 ft when departing from runway 8. The runway was down-sloping from the "break" to the departure end of runway 8. A functioning windsock was located north of the runway and about 263 ft from its departure end.

Examination of the airstrip revealed marks/impressions in the grass from three tires, which were consistent with that from a tricycle-gear-equipped airplane taxiing on the runway for an east departure. From that point, about 1,130 ft of runway remained, all of which was down-sloping. (The airstrip owner indicated that the elevation at the point where the pilot initiated the takeoff was about 633 ft, whereas the elevation at the departure end of the runway was about 603 ft.)

The marks from the three tires continued for about 362 ft from the start of the takeoff roll, at which point the nose tire mark disappeared. The marks from the main landing gear tires continued to about abeam the windsock, and at that point, a narrow 30-ft-long mark consistent with contact by the tail tiedown loop was noted. Further examination of the runway revealed that the grass was about 2 inches high. In general, the portion of runway 08 from its start to the "break" was noted to be slightly soft, whereas the remainder of the runway was noted to be harder.


The airplane crashed in the yard of a residence; the main wreckage was located about 089° and 520 ft from the departure end of runway 08. The main wreckage was upright heading 020° on gently sloped terrain with the wings oriented upslope and downslope.

Examination of the accident site revealed impact damage to trees and ground about 40 ft west of the resting position of the airplane. A tree left of the resting position of the main wreckage was damaged about 30 ft above ground level (agl); the left wingtip was found in the tree, and the left elevator counterweight was found on the ground at the base of the tree, or about 482 ft past the departure end of the runway. Nearly in-line with the tree contact was a ground contact scar with specs of white paint in the dirt. A section of the right aileron and right wingtip were located on the ground slightly east of the ground contact location. Immediately adjacent to the ground contact was damage to several small diameter trees about 8 ft agl.

Fire damage was noted in the area immediately adjacent to the resting position of the wreckage. Examination of a tree that was resting partially on the engine cowling revealed one limb about 1.75 inches in diameter that exhibited a 45° cut; the cut was located about 108 inches agl. Two small diameter tree sections with opposite 45° cuts were found immediately adjacent to the accident site. The trees were associated with the first contact small diameter trees between 1.0 and 1.5 inches in diameter. The limbs were about 14 inches long and exhibited black transfer marks on the cut surfaces.

The cockpit, cabin, and inboard portions of both wings were nearly consumed in the postcrash fire. The manual flap selector was found positioned to the 10° extension position. All four female portions of the lapbelts were located, none of which had the male portion connected. The pilot's lapbelt, which exhibited heat damage, was buckled and noted to easily release. The remains of the fuel selector handle and plate were located; however, the body of the fuel selector valve was not identified.

All components necessary to sustain flight remained attached or were found near the resting position of the main wreckage. Flight control continuity was confirmed for roll, pitch, and yaw from each control surface to each respective cockpit control. During examination of the elevator trim system cable, one cable broke at the swedged end of the chain. The fracture surface was noted to be fresh and did not exhibit soot. Flap cable continuity was confirmed from the flap selector handle to each flap bellcrank adjacent to the control surface.

Examination of the right entry door revealed that about two-thirds of it, including the forward and upper portions, was consumed by postcrash fire; the hinges were found loose in the wreckage. The exterior door handle was in the "closed" position, which corresponded with the door latch being extended (locked), and it moved by hand actuation. Deformation was noted to the lower portion of the door; it could not be determined whether the deformation was due to fire or impact.

Examination of the fuselage revealed that it was nearly consumed by postcrash fire to fuselage station (FS) 140, but it was continuous from that point to FS 228. The vertical stabilizer with attached rudder and right horizontal stabilizer with attached elevator and counterweight remained attached to the empennage. Examination of the elevator trim tab actuator revealed it was extended about 1.70 inches, which equates to 20°-tab trailing edge up (maximum is 28°). The trim tab control cables were continuous to the cockpit. The left horizontal stabilizer with attached elevator was separated and found immediately forward of the right horizontal stabilizer. The tail tiedown located at FS 228 had dirt adhering to it. Examination of the bulkhead at FS228 revealed no damage at the bottom or at the lower elevator control cable attachment pass-through area. A wrinkle was noted on the fuselage bottom from FS 214 to 219.

Examination of the separated baggage door, which was found in the main wreckage and had sustained heat damage, revealed that the outer latch was in.

Examination of both wings revealed that they sustained impact and postaccident fire damage. Both fuel tank outlet screens were unobstructed. Examination of the left fuel tank vent check valve revealed that the check valve flapper was in place, and it moved freely by hand actuation.

Examination of the engine compartment revealed that the fuel strainer was separated from its attachment point on the firewall and exhibited extensive fire damage. The inlet was separated, but a flexible hose remained connected to the outlet fitting. The B-nut of the hose connected at the outlet fitting was about 2.5 flats loose. Disassembly of the fuel strainer revealed that the screen exhibited some corrosion on the exterior surface.

Examination of the engine revealed that the upper and lower engine cowlings were in place. Following removal of the upper cowling, heat damage was noted to the engine. The engine remained attached to the airframe, and the case halves matched. The oil dipstick and oil filler cap were found in place; no oil level registered on the dipstick. The engine was removed from the airframe, and following removal of the lower engine cowling, engine oil was noted resting on the interior surface. Rotation of the propeller revealed crankshaft, camshaft, and valve train continuity, including continuity to the accessory section; during rotation, the impulse coupling was heard to activate. Thumb suction and compression were noted in all cylinders.

Examination of the upper and lower spark plugs revealed normal wear; the lower plugs of the odd cylinders were noted to be oil soaked, but the engine was resting with those cylinders in a lower elevation than the opposite-side cylinders. The ignition harness was heat damaged. Both magnetos were tightly installed to the accessory case, and during hand rotation of the propeller, no spark was noted at the heat damaged ignition leads. The left magneto was partially disassembled, which revealed that the distributor block was destroyed, the rotor gear was not in place, and the distributor gear exhibited heat damage. The right magneto exhibited heat damage to the rotor and distributor gears. During rotation of the propeller, the rotor shafts of both magnetos rotated.

Examination of the carburetor revealed that it remained attached to the oil sump but exhibited heat damage. The mixture and throttle cables, which remained attached to each respective control levers, were in the full rich and nearly full wide-open positions, respectively. Examination of the carburetor heat control revealed that the control cable remained attached to the control lever, which was found oriented nearly parallel to the lower surface of the oil sump and correlated to the open, or cold, position. Disassembly of the carburetor revealed that one float had separated; the other float remained attached but was not fully seated. Examination of the separated float revealed resolidified solder. Dark discoloration was noted in the carburetor bowl.

Examination of the propeller, which remained attached to the engine, revealed one blade was fractured about 31 inches from the hub centerline, whereas the other blade was full span; the separated blade piece was not located. The fractured blade exhibited a slight forward bend beginning about 7 inches from the fracture point of the blade; no evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction. The full span blade exhibited "S" bending, the center points of which were located 12 and 25 inches, respectively, from the bulkhead location. The outer 4.5 inches of the leading edge exhibited blade damage, which was curled forward.


The pilot died 6 days after the accident while hospitalized, and an autopsy was not performed. According to the death certificate, the cause of death was listed as "complications of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries."

The FAA's Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, conducted toxicological testing on the pilot's serum samples. The FAA toxicology report stated that it did not perform testing for carbon monoxide and cyanide and that no volatiles were detected in the serum samples. Unquantified amounts of ketamine and midazolam and 0.13 ug/ml norketamine were detected in the serum samples. These medications are only available in IV form and are generally used during resuscitation efforts.

The rear seat occupant died the day after the accident while hospitalized, and an autopsy was not performed. According to the external examination report, the cause of death was listed as "complications of thermal and inhalational injuries due to airplane crash."


According to the front seat passenger, after the airplane came to rest, all occupants were alert and conscious. She was unable to open the right door and attributed this to either the impact or operational issues.


Weight and Balance

Weight calculations were performed using the empty weight listed from a weight and balance form dated October 23, 2008 (1,516.83 lbs), the weight of oil (15.0 lbs), the pilot's weight per his last medical application (168 lbs), the weight of the right front seat passenger (138 lbs), the estimated weight of the rear seat occupant (162 lbs), and the estimated fuel load (161 lbs). The airplane weight at engine start was estimated to be about 2,161 lbs, or about 89 lbs less than the maximum certificated gross weight of 2,250 lbs. Center-of-gravity calculations indicated that the loaded aircraft moment was 87.85 lb-inches, which was within the normal category envelope of 2,161 lbs.

Takeoff Performance

According to the takeoff data chart contained in the owner's manual, which was for a hard-surfaced runway with flaps retracted, based on the airport elevation (average 618 ft), the temperature about the time of the accident (68°F), the estimated airplane weight at the time of the accident (2,161 lbs), and no headwind, the ground run was calculated to be about 786 ft, and the distance to clear a 50-ft obstacle was calculated to be about 1,370 ft. The chart did not contain figures for a grass surface nor any tailwind or sloped runway components. The owner's manual also indicated that 10° of flap extension shortened the ground run about 10%, but the advantage was lost to climb over a 50-ft obstacle.

The owner's manual also contained a chart for stall speeds, which was predicated on the airplane being operated at gross weight and power off, and true airspeeds were provided in mph. Based on a flap position of 10°, the stall speeds at 0°, 20°, and 40° of bank were 54, 56, and 62 mph, respectively.

Sound Spectrum Study

According to a sound spectrum study of the provided takeoff video, the engine was operating about 2,340 rpm, or 360 rpm below the full red line rpm of 2,700 at the time the airplane passed the camera (near the departure end of the runway) during takeoff. The study also indicated that, because the airplane's speed was unknown, it was not possible to accurately determine the engine rpm throughout the takeoff roll.

Speed Study

According to a speed study of the provided takeoff video, the impact occurred 9.25 seconds after the airplane passed the windsock. The average groundspeed from the point where the airplane passed the windsock just before becoming airborne to the accident site was about 47 knots (54 mph).

According to a representative of the propeller manufacturer, based on the temperature at the time of the accident and the airstrip elevation, the required theoretical true airspeed that would have allowed the propeller to achieve 2,700 rpm (full red line rpm) would have been 84 knots. The representative also indicated that, based on the temperature, elevation, and the average groundspeed calculated by the NTSB, the engine rpm was 2,402, the power absorbed (hp) was about 124, and the lbs of thrust was about 462.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 37, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 1 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 08/31/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 08/16/2014
Flight Time:  457.4 hours (Total, all aircraft), 381.5 hours (Total, this make and model), 351.5 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 40 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 21.9 hours (Last 30 days, all aircraft) 

Pilot-Rated Passenger Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 31, Female
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Lap Only
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: Yes
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 2 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 04/13/2015
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time: (Estimated) 200 hours (Total, all aircraft) 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N1863Y
Model/Series: 172 C
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1962
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal; Utility
Serial Number: 17249463
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 04/05/2016, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2250 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 6 Hours
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time:  3302.55 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer: CONT MOTOR
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-300-D
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 145 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Dusk
Observation Facility, Elevation: RME, 504 ft msl
Observation Time: 1853 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 6°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C / -1°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots, 300°
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.13 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: Westmoreland, NY (NA)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Destination: Rome, NY (RME)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 1910 EDT
Type of Airspace:

Airport Information

Airport: Sophie's Choice (NA)
Runway Surface Type: Grass/turf
Airport Elevation: 610 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry; Soft
Runway Used: 8
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 1980 ft / 70 ft
VFR Approach/Landing:  None 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal, 1 Minor
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude:   43.113611, -75.422222

NTSB Identification: ERA16FA161
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, April 18, 2016 in Westmoreland, NY
Aircraft: CESSNA 172, registration: N1863Y
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On April 18, 2016, about 1910 eastern daylight time, a Cessna 172C, N1863Y, collided with trees and terrain during takeoff from Sophie's Choice airstrip, Westmoreland, New York. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured, while one passenger sustained minor injuries. The airplane was destroyed by a postcrash fire. The airplane was registered to a private individual, and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed. The flight was originating at the time of the occurrence, and was destined for Griffiss International Airport (RME), Rome New York.

Witnesses reported the pilot initiated takeoff to the east from the downsloping grass runway with about 1,130 feet of runway available. The flight became airborne when past the windsock located near the departure end of the runway and continued to the east. While flying past the departure end of the runway, a pilot-rated witness reported seeing the airplane bank to the right, then left and described it as "hanging on the propeller." While in a right bank, the left wing collided with a tree about 30 feet above ground level and the right wing collided with the ground. The airplane came to rest upright about 40 feet past the tree contact location, and a postcrash fire started shortly after the airplane came to rest.

A small plane crash in Westmoreland one week ago has claimed the life of a second victim.

The pilot, 37-year-old John Balio of Frankfort, passed away yesterday afternoon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Balio was at the controls of the aircraft that failed to reach altitude last Monday as it took off from a field near Lowell road in Westmoreland. However it is been learned, by eyewitness accounts and police investigation that Balio's efforts both in flight and after the crash were nothing short of heroic.

Oneida County Undersheriff Rob Swenszkowski adds,
"Not only was Mr. Balio able to actually bring the plane down without, what we understand to believe serious injuries. But he was able to get Ms. Odell out of the plane, and then it was apparent Mr. Kasperski was having some difficulty getting out of the plane. And Mr. Balio, in what we see as a very valiant and heroic effort, tried to assist Mr. Kasperski. And at that time being covered with fuel from the wings that was leaking out of the plane, and had somehow ignited. Whether the muffler had ignited, we're not so sure at this point.

Swenszkowski adds while tragic, the actions by both first responders and community members was instrumental in avoiding further damage.

"It's very unfortunate of the incident, in and out of itself. But, we're fortunate to have at least one survivor. And hopefully the families can move on with this with the memories of their loved ones."

Story and video:

John Balio, a 37-year-old pilot of a plane that crashed in Oneida County on April 18, has died from his injuries, his family and sheriff's deputies said Monday.

Balio - who suffered fourth-degree burns all over his body and had been transferred to a hospital in Boston - died Sunday afternoon, his family said. The small plane crashed on take-off near Creaser Road in Westmoreland.

Oneida County sheriff's deputies said Balio "in a heroic effort" attempted to free passenger James Kaperski, 76, from the plane. Kaperski later died of his injuries.

Police said witnesses said Balio and a passenger Amanda Udell, 31, were able to exit the plane through the door. That's when fuel leaking from the plane ignited, burning both Balio and Kaperski, deputies said.

"He was a hero,'' said Cosmo Balio, 42, John's older brother.

Cosmo Balio said he talked to the homeowner whose property the plane landed on, and she told him she's grateful he was able to avoid her house when the plane went down.

Udell, the pilot's girlfriend, was able to escape the crash with minor injuries but is terribly broken up over Balio's death, Cosmo Balio said.

John Balio, of West Frankfort in Herkimer County, took up flying about five years ago, his brother said. He would fly to his sales appointments in Rochester and all over the state, and also flew to his nieces' soccer tournaments in Virginia.

"He was passionate about flying,'' Cosmo Balio said. "He just loved it. He loved being able to go anywhere. I let my two daughters fly with him, and I never had any concerns about it. He was very skilled."

Cosmo Balio said he doesn't know what happened to cause the crash that day.

He does know that John Balio, his girlfriend and a friend, Kaperski, were flying that day with two other small planes. They flew to Old Forge that day, and then touched down at the private runway off Lowell and Creaser roads in Westmoreland, he said.

John Balio would send his brother funny YouTube videos, and sometimes he'd dress up as Will Ferrell and dance around.

"He was someone who cared about everyone else before himself, " he said.

John Balio also is survived by a younger brother and his parents.

A GoFundMe page set up when Balio was first hospitalized has raised more than $53,000 to cover hospital expenses.

"The response has brought us to our knees as a family,'' Cosmo Balio said. "It shows how loved he was by everyone."

Cosmo said the family will use the money raised for a college fund for John Balio's daughter, Morgan.

WESTMORELAND (WSYR-TV) -- 76-year-old James Kasperski, a passenger in the small plane that crashed in Westmoreland on Monday night, has died from his injuries, according to the Oneida County Sheriff's Office.

37-year-old John Bailo, the plane's pilot, remains in critical condition at Upstate University Hospital.

Another passenger, 31-year-old Amy Odell of Rome, was treated for her injuries and released.

According to Sheriff Robert Maciol, the small plane crashed after take-off from a grass airstrip located on Lowell Rd.

Maciol did not say where the people were traveling from.

Officials say neighbors called 911 and helped the victims out of the plane.

"We were having a practice over at the elementary school and there were three or four planes flying over head really low. Then all of a sudden, one of them was gone. We saw this big smoke cloud go up and one of the other coaches who's a fireman with Westmoreland got called away and he said there's a plane crash," said Randy Walker, who witnessed the incident.

Story and video:

UPDATE:The names of the victim's in last night's Westmoreland plane crash have been revealed as 31-year-old Amanda Odell of Rome, 37-year-old John Bailo of Frankfort, who was piloting the plane. and 76-year-old James Kasperski.

Oneida County Undersheriff's revealed that Odell was released from the hospital while Bailo and Kasperski are still at Upstate University Hospital in critical condition.

WESTMORELAND, N.Y. --- Surrounded by the hills and streams in Westmoreland, Don Marino was inside his home when he heard a plane taking off from a nearby landing strip- seconds later he saw the plane go down.

"It was literally within 7 or 8 secs from the time he lifted until it went down." said Marino.

Grabbing the phone to call 9-1-1, Don started running toward the crash site. He was about half way there when he saw the plane go up in flames.

"They already started climbing out of the plane. There were two of them on the ground when I got there. The one I attended to was actually on fire. What was left of his clothing was still burning. And he was trying to roll. And, he was rolling in dry grass, which was catching on fire." said Marino.

About ten feet away there happened to be a small creek near the wreckage. Don used the water to his advantage. He was able to bring one of the passengers into the creek to stop the fire from spreading.

"It was a pretty tough scene to deal with. But, I was kinda of glad I was here and I was kinda glad I was able to help." he said

As FAA and NTSB investigators search to find out what caused the plane to go down, Oneida County Sheriffs Department says all three people were lucky.

"The only better outcome would have been that there were no injuries but they were very fortunate that it happened in the manner it did and in the area that it did." said Robert Swenszkowski, an Oneida County Undersheriff.

Both the sheriffs dept and the neighbors said, if the plane had to crash this way, this was the best way because there were people here to help and the water right there.

Story and video:

WESTMORELAND -- Three people were injured Monday after a small plane crashed and burned behind a barn in a backyard on Lowell Road in Westmoreland, said Oneida County Undersheriff Robert Swenszkowski.

Neighbors saw the plane crash shortly after it took off from a small airstrip around 7 p.m. a couple of hundred feet away from the crash site by Lowell Road and called 911 early Monday evening, he said.

The homeowners where the plane crashed ran out to assist the victims, helping them out of the plane, Swenszkowski said. He added that he believes the neighbors helped to put out flames on one of the occupants.

The crash happened near the intersection with Creaser Road.

The plane’s occupants suffered burns and other injuries, and were taken by ambulance to area hospitals; two were expected to be transferred to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, he said.

Swenszkowski declined to release any information on the identity of the plane’s occupants.

The scene has been secured pending the arrival of the Federal Aviation Administration, which will investigate the accident, he said.

Deputies were assisted at the scene by state police, Westmoreland Volunteer Fire Department, and COCVAC Ambulance.

As of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office is waiting for the FAA and NTSB to respond to the scene.

Story and video:

WESTMORELAND, NY- Three people were rushed to area hospitals following a plane crash in Westmoreland Monday evening.

The crash happened shortly after 7pm near Lowell and Creaser Roads in Westmoreland.

Officials confirm two of the victims were badly injured with burns.  A witness tells NEWSChannel 2's Don Shipman one of the victims is a 76 year-old man and has burns on nearly 90% of his body.  The pilot, according to a witness, was also badly burned.

The second passenger, according to a witness, was not visibly hurt.

The Westmoreland Fire Department, New York State Police and Oneida County Sheriff's Department were called to the scene.

The investigation will be turned over the FAA.  So far, local officials say they don't know what caused the plane to crash.

"It appears the plane touched down at a local air strip down the road took back off and then crashed behind us here," Undersheriff Robert Swenszkowski, Oneida County Sheriff's Dept.  "There were three occupants. They all suffered burns and other injuries. They've all been sent to local hospitals for treatment. All three have survived the crash."

- Story and video:

WESTMORELAND — Three people were hospitalized after witnesses said they walked away from a plane crash near the intersection of Lowell and Creaser roads Monday evening. 

The small plane came down just behind a farm on Lowell Road shortly after 7 p.m. Law enforcement officials said the three suffered burns and other injuries and were taken to local hospitals. 

Officials said the plane had just taken off from a small airstrip across the road from the farm.

"It was a crash," said Undersheriff Robert S. Swenszkowski. Authorities do not yet know what caused the plane to lose altitude so quickly. The plane managed to avoid a nearby barn before crashing into a field.

The plane was totaled, but witnesses said all three occupants managed to free themselves.

"All three have survived the crash," Swenszkowski said at the scene. "They suffered some burns and other injuries."

Witnesses said there was thick black smoke coming from the debris, and a little flame. All three occupants were out of the plane by the time nearby residents reached the crash site.

Rescue personnel from Westmoreland and other agencies were dispatched. The three were taken to nearby hospitals.

Swenszkowski said the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the crash.

Original article can be found here: 

ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. --- There are report from WKTV of a plane crash that occurred shortly after 7 p.m. Monday night.

According to WKTV the crash happened near Lowell and Creaser Roads in Westmoreland, which has reportedly left 2 people seriously injured.

A helicopter and two ambulances were sent to transport those affected to nearby hospitals.

UPDATE: Notable portions of call audio.

10:22 "AIRCRAFT accident area of Lowell road and greaser road, a possible airplane crash Westmoreland."

10:37 (tones go out) "Fire control to oneida county ambulance Westmoreland aircraft accident Lowell road greaser road. Oneida county ambulance Westmoreland Air craft accident Lowell road and greaser road."

11:05 "Per the caller Cessna plane on fire Lowell road and greaser"

11:55 "Two subjects on the aircraft with severe burns (per caller)"

12:40 "Two patients with severe burns, helicopter notified, the plane is on fire."

Original article can be found here:

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