Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pittsford, Vermont, honors responders to plane crash

Cessna 172G Skyhawk, N4676L, registered to Anne Kristine II Inc and operated by the pilot: Fatal accident occurred November 22, 2017 in Pittsford, Rutland County, Vermont

Pittsford Police Lt. William Pratico shows a plaque awarded to the town Police Department by the Select Board at a ceremony thanking those who responded to a fatal plane crash last November. At right is Officer Antje Schermerhorn. 

The scene of the fatal plane crash in Pittsford two days after the incident took place on November 22, 2017.

Pittsford Police Lt. William Pratico, left, listens as Dan Baker, center, thanks local emergency personnel who responded to his father’s fatal plane crash in November. At right is Pittsford Police Chief Mike Warfle. A ceremony was held Wednesday night at the Pittsford town Offices where plaques were awarded to first responders by the Select Board. 

PITTSFORD — On the night last November that Norman Baker’s aircraft disappeared somewhere in the autumn fog over Pittsford, a police officer drove his son around as they tried to find clues about what happened to the missing pilot and his single-engine Cessna.

“It was Officer Antje. I drove around with her all night long and it was the night before Thanksgiving,” Dan Baker said Thursday, referring to Pittsford Police Officer Antje Schermerhorn, one of several police officers, firefighters and emergency responders who worked the night before Thanksgiving to find the senior Baker.

On Wednesday, the town of Pittsford honored the dozens of Pittsford emergency responders who worked to find Norman Baker, an 89-year-old pilot from Windsor, Massachusetts, who was flying to meet his children in Vermont for the holiday before his plane disappeared on its way to Middlebury State Airport.

The Select Board presented plaques to the Police Department, the Fire Department and Pittsford First Response, praising them for their work the night of Nov. 22, 2017.

Baker and his wrecked plane were found the next morning.

The elder Baker was an adventurer of some renown: The Boston Globe and The New York Times wrote profiles about the man who, among other adventures, was the celestial navigator for the famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who made trans-Atlantic crossings in boats made of papyrus reeds.

But nobody knew that on Nov. 22 except his family; the Pittsford first responders only knew someone’s father was missing.

“In recognition of excellent police officer performance, above and beyond the call of duty,” read the commendation, listing Lt. William Pratico, Officers Stephane Goulet and Schermerhorn, as well as Officer Jerry Tift and Officer Tim Cornell.

“Pittsford Assistant Fire Chief William Hemple led several of his colleagues in responding to news of a missing man and an overdue aircraft,” read the fire department’s commendation.

Robert Foley and colleagues of Pittsford First Response went “above and beyond the call of duty,” that night, “always remaining prepared to provide medical attention to anyone in need” and later helped with the removal of the pilot’s body, according to the commendation.

Town Manager John Haverstock said Wednesday’s event was “a very moving opportunity for the town to once again thank the police, fire and rescue people.”

He said Dan Baker attended the ceremony at the Pittsford town office.

Pratico said Pittsford emergency personnel went into action the night before Thanksgiving after a resident on Sugar Hollow Road reported seeing a plane flying very low, perhaps with engine trouble.

After contacting various airports and aviation authorities, none of which reported anyone missing, local police, firefighters, and Vermont State Police went out into the general area and looked and looked and looked.

“We exhausted all our means,” Pratico said, adding there was no doubt a plane was missing, as other residents reported hearing the low-flying aircraft.

The Civil Air Patrol did a flyover, but couldn’t pick up any signals, Pratico said. And police learned it wasn’t unusual for pilots to fly low “under the fog to see where they were going.”

He said no one heard a crash.

The next morning, one Pittsford resident who had heard the plane searches and read some of the notices, went out on his own property and quickly found Baker and the remains of the plane.

“I think he saw a piece of debris in a tree that drew his attention and he walked right over to it,” Pratico said.

Baker’s plane had crashed into a heavily wooded ridgeline and broke apart.

Pratico and Dan Baker said the National Transportation Safety Board still has not concluded its investigation into the fatal crash. The younger Baker said it likely will be several more months before the investigation was completed.

“We’ve been in touch with them and it’s still ongoing,” he said.

Dan Baker said he has his own theory on why his father, an experienced pilot who had flown to the Middlebury airport close to 20 times in recent years, crashed. In fact, his father had flown to the Middlebury airport just two weeks earlier to meet his newest twin granddaughters, said Baker, a Starksboro resident.

He doesn’t believe his father ran out of fuel. He said he believes his father had lost consciousness and in his last moments steered his plane away from Route 7 and homes “and made sure no one else was injured.”

His father had long planned for emergencies, he said, and would have put his plane down on Route 7, or one of the many open fields in the area.

Dan Baker, a professor of community development and applied economics at the University of Vermont, said his father was an extremely skilled pilot, once landing the two of them in his single-engine plane at Boston’s Logan Airport so his son could make a connection.

He praised the work of the Pittsford officers and volunteers who helped him and his family.

“When they found my dad, they allowed me to be a witness for my family,” he said.

“I couldn’t have been more impressed and grateful for their dedication and their skill,” he said. “They were pretty wonderful folks.”

Original article can be found here ➤

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

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Portland, Maine
Textron Aviation; Wichita, Kansas

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Pittsford, VT
Accident Number: CEN18FA037
Date & Time: 11/22/2017, 1700 EST
Registration: N4676L
Aircraft: CESSNA 172G
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under:  Part 91: General Aviation - Personal

On November 22, 2017, about 1700 eastern standard time, a Cessna 172G, N4676L, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain near Pittsford, Vermont. The pilot was fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to Anne Kristine II, Inc., and operated by the pilot under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight. Weather conditions at the site are to be determined. The flight was not on a flight plan. The flight originated from the Pittsfield Municipal Airport (PSF), Pittsfield, Massachusetts at an unconfirmed time and the Middlebury State Airport (6B0), Middlebury, Vermont, was the intended destination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N4676L
Model/Series: 172G G
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:  No 
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:  Unknown
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: RUT, 787 ft msl
Observation Time: 1656 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 15 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 2°C / 0°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots, 310°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 2000 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.94 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Departure Point: PITTSFIELD, MA (PSF)
Destination: MIDDLEBURY, VT (6B0)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 43.755556, -73.040000

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