Friday, January 10, 2020

Robinson R66, N450MC: Fatal accident occurred January 09, 2020 in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

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. 

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

Additional Participating Entities: 

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
FAA AVP-100; Accident Investigation and Prevention, Washington, District of Columbia
Robinson Helicopter Company; Torrance, California
Rolls-Royce Corporation; Indianapolis, Indiana  

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Mechanicsburg, PA 

Accident Number: ERA20FA074
Date & Time: 01/09/2020, 2029 EST
Registration: N450MC
Aircraft: ROBINSON R66
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On January 9, 2020, about 2029 eastern standard time, a Robinson R66, N450MC, experienced an in-flight break-up near Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and the helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was operated under the provisions of title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time and no flight plan was filed for the flight. The flight originated about 1958 from Martin State Airport (MTN), Baltimore, Maryland, and was destined for Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), Buffalo, New York.

According to preliminary air traffic control radar information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, after takeoff the helicopter climbed to about 2,300 ft mean sea level (msl) and proceeded on a north-northwesterly track. The flight remained about that altitude and track between about 2002 and 2023, when the flight turned left toward the northwest, but remained at about the same altitude until 2028:53. About that time the helicopter began a descent, which continued until the last radar target at 2029:17, at an altitude of about 1,150 ft msl.

One witness who was outside about 1,000 ft east of the accident site reported hearing and seeing a low flying helicopter, which was "struggling to fly." She reported hearing a high-pitched noise as if the rotor was having difficulty turning. Suddenly she heard a loud "boom" with a flash of light. At that point the helicopter disappeared from her view.

Another witness who was inside his residence about 800 ft northeast of the accident site reported hearing a "thumping" sound which slowed. He then heard a loud bang which shook his house. He immediately went to his back door, then about 30 seconds later he received a text message from his neighbor alerting him of the helicopter accident. He also reported hearing a "percussion" sound before the sound of impact.

The helicopter was equipped with a Rolls-Royce Engine Monitoring Unit that was retained for downloading. Outlying wreckage consisting of a section of main rotor blade, tail rotor assembly, tailboom, main rotor mast, and other pieces of the helicopter were recovered and retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: ROBINSON
Registration: N450MC
Model/Series: R66 No Series
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: CXY, 347 ft msl
Observation Time: 2030 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 8 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point:-2°C / -10°C 
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 7 knots / , 110°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.67 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Unknown
Departure Point: Baltimore, MD (MTN)
Destination: Buffalo, NY (BUF)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion:None 
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 40.227778, -77.020278 

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Mark Croce 

January 9, 2020; suddenly. Beloved husband of Jessica R. (nee Fabianski) Croce; dear father of Dominic and Dante Croce; dear son of Louis C. (Lorraine) Croce and the late Josephine M. Fuessel-Acton; grandson of Philomena Anselmo, the late Michael Tascarella and the late Carl Croce; dear brother of Scott (Susan) Croce, Todd (Andrea) Croce and Carlene (late Timothy) Mahoney; son-in-law of Barbara and the late Gregory Fabianski; brother-in-law of Jason and Katie Fabianski; uncle to many nieces and nephews. No prior visitation. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for immediate family and close friends ONLY on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 10 AM in St. Joseph Cathedral, 50 Franklin Street, Buffalo, NY. Arrangements by AMIGONE FUNERAL HOME, INC. Share condolences online at

Michael D. Capriotto

Michael D. Capriotto, age 63, of Orchard Park, died Thursday, January 9, 2020.  Mr. Capriotto was born October 6, 1956 in Lackawanna, NY. He is the son of the late Carmelo and the late Vegenzina (Pietrantonio) Capriotto.  He married Joanne Godfrey.  

Beloved husband of Joanne (Godfrey) Capriotto; father of Jenny A. (Jason) Aidala, John M. (fiancee Nancy) and Catherine A. Capriotto; grandfather of Benjamin G., Daniel J. and Joseph P.; brother of Carmen (Ann) Capriotto, Brenda (John) Werely and Carole Ann (Timothy) Judge; also survived by cousins, nieces and nephews; nephew of Mary Disipio and Anna Capriotto. 

A Mass of Christian burial will be held 10:00am on Monday, January 20, 2020 at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 3148 Abbott Rd., Orchard Park, NY.  Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery, Orchard Park on Monday.

Calling hours will be Saturday, January 18 from 4:00pm - 8:00pm and the funeral home will be open all day Sunday January 19th for friends to call and the family will be present from 4:00pm - 8:00pm at F. E. Brown Sons Funeral Home, Inc., 6575 East Quaker Street, Orchard Park, NY.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators on Saturday moved the wreckage from the helicopter crash that killed Buffalo developer Mark Croce and his friend Michael Capriotto to a secure location for further examination.

Preliminary results from the investigation into the crash in a residential neighborhood in Central Pennsylvania Thursday night are expected to be released later this week, but they will not provide a cause for crash, according NTSB spokesman Terry Williams.

There was no distress call from the helicopter, a Robinson R66 Turbine, prior to the 8:30 p.m. crash, Williams said. The flight had taken off about 30 minutes earlier from an airport 10 miles east of downtown Baltimore.

“Some of the early information we gather will be released in the preliminary report and we may have some more details on the crash, but it will not have any analysis or determination of the cause,” Williams said Saturday.

Final reports determining the causes of crashes involving aircraft usually take 12 to 18 months, according to the NTSB’s website.

Also on Saturday, Tim Monville, an NTSB senior air safety investigator, was interviewing witnesses in the Silver Spring Township neighborhood where the helicopter went down in the backyard of a house. No one on the ground was injured.

Assisting Monville in different aspects of the investigation are officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and manufacturing representatives for the aircraft and its engine, according to Williams.

Other information that will be scrutinized includes weather conditions, radar tracking, flight and audio data, 911 calls alerting police to the crash, maintenance records for the helicopter and Croce’s experience as a pilot, according to the NTSB.

An autopsy on Croce could reveal whether he had experienced a medical emergency causing the crash, according to pilot Joseph DeMarco Sr., one of Croce’s closest friends and a business associate.

“Mark was brilliant. He was always really good with the technical stuff,” DeMarco said of Croce's piloting abilities. “We flew together at least 100 times.”

DeMarco and other friends have said that Croce and Capriotto were returning from a trip to check out gyroplanes because Croce was interested in buying one.

“Mark was all excited and had shown me pictures of the gyroplane he had test-flown previously. He was explaining how safe they were. He said if you lose the engine on a gyroplane, it will still glide. He said it is much safer than a helicopter. It’s just crazy the conversation we had, given what happened,” DeMarco said.

Many years ago, the two went in as partners and bought their first airplane.

“We didn’t even have pilot licenses,” DeMarco recalled and explained that the “tail number,” the plane’s registration number, “N432DC,” had special significance for them.

“The N starts every tail number. The 43 was because we were both 43 and the 2 was for the two of us. The DC stood for DeMarco and Croce,” DeMarco said, adding that as he bought different airplanes over the years he retained the same tail number.

DeMarco, who started Wings Flights of Hope providing free air transportation for medical patients and their families, said that as recently as two weeks ago he flew with Croce in the helicopter.

“This helicopter he had was top-notch. It had autopilot, which is very unheard-of in a helicopter, and terrain awareness,” DeMarco said. “Mark will forever be flying high as my copilot.”

He is not only mourning the loss of Croce, but Capriotto, who was DeMarco's cousin.

Perhaps the last person to have contact with Croce on the night he died was his best friend, Leon Tringali, the owner of Leon Studio One.

"I was always worried about Mark getting back safely even though he was one of the best private pilots. I texted him 10 minutes before the crash and he texted me saying that he'd talk to me when he got back," Tringali said.

Now Tringali says he is left with memories of the man he has known for more than 35 years and considered a brother.

'The personal side of Mark was very different from his public figure. He was a very compassionate person and loved the people around him, his wife, his sons, his brothers, Scotty and Todd, and his parents," Tringali said. "He was very generous, not just financially but with his time, and that is important."

Buffalo developer Mark Croce and his friend, Michael Capriotto, an Orchard Park businessman, boarded Croce's helicopter Thursday night at an airport outside Baltimore. They took off at 7:59 p.m., on their way back home to Buffalo.

At 8:30 p.m., authorities began receiving 911 calls from residents in a tree-filled residential neighborhood in Central Pennsylvania that a helicopter had crashed in the backyard of a house. First responders found wreckage strewn about and the bodies of two victims.

On Friday morning, Western New York awoke to the shocking news that one of the city's most influential developers and a prominent leader in Orchard Park had died. As tributes poured in from politicians, developers and other civic leaders, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board began looking into why the helicopter crashed.

Mike Brion was one of the first to hear what happened.

"It was so loud, I couldn't tell where it had hit," Brion told The Buffalo News by phone Friday.

He and his wife, Melissa Brion, were putting their two daughters to bed Thursday night in their home on Surrey Lane in Silver Spring Township, Pa. when they heard the noise of a passing helicopter. At first, it sounded normal. Then, he said, the noise got louder.

The propeller sputtered. He heard a "bang" amid the sounds of the propeller. Then a crash.

His wife opened the curtains in his daughters' room and he saw the wreckage of a helicopter about 25 to 30 feet from the house.

"It was just a pile of debris," he said.

Croce, 58, and Capriotto, 63, both of Orchard Park were dead at the scene, according to Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.

The helicopter didn't hit any structures, and no one on the ground was injured, Cumberland County spokesman John Bruetsch told reporters at the scene, according to the news website

"There's a large debris field. Everything else is fine. It's just the helicopter in the yard," he said, adding: "We have two fatalities, and we do not have any injuries to anyone else. If there's any good news to take away from this, there's that."

A tracking of the flight on the website shows that the helicopter left at 7:59 p.m. from Martin State Airport, 10 miles east of downtown Baltimore. The radar tracker shows the flight ending near Harrisburg, Pa., at 8:30 p.m. The radar site also said the helicopter was traveling at an altitude of 1,400 feet and at a speed of 148.5 mph.

The skies were clear Thursday in the area of the crash, with temperatures in the upper 20s and a slight breeze with winds from the east of 6 to 8 mph, according to records from the National Weather Service office in Harrisburg, Pa.

The NTSB arrived Friday morning to begin an investigation. Autopsies on the bodies were scheduled for Tuesday, Hall said.

Croce was flying a Robinson R66 Turbine helicopter manufactured last year and certified as airworthy on Jan. 28, 2019, according to the Federal Aviation Administration flight registry. Croce's chopper was issued a flight certificate last March 12.

The FAA registry shows that Redmark Capital LLC owned the aircraft. Redmark Capital's address is 257 Franklin St. in Buffalo, which is the site of three of Croce's business establishments: Sky Bar, D'Arcy McGee's and the LiFT Nightclub.

The Robinson R66 can carry up to five passengers and travel up to 350 miles without refueling, according to the manufacturer's website. Fully loaded with passengers, it can cruise at up to 126 mph, although it can move faster with fewer passengers, as was the case with the Croce flight.

The privately held Robinson Helicopter Co., formed in 1973, is among the world's largest helicopter manufacturers. It has three products: the R22 and R44, which feature piston engines, and the R66, which has a turbine engine.

There are questions, though, about the safety of some of Robinson's products. A 2018 Los Angeles Times investigation found that the Robinson R44s were involved in 42 deadly crashes between 2006 and 2016, more than any other commercial helicopter. And the R66 – the model Croce flew – has also been involved in several fatal crashes that have produced lawsuits.

Ron Goldman, an attorney with Los Angeles-Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman whose firm has been involved in more than a half-dozen lawsuits involving Robinson helicopters, said it's too early to say what caused the crash.

But he said investigators will likely be looking at several factors, including the weather and wind conditions, the fact that the crash happened at night and the debris field around the crash site.

"We would look carefully at the wreckage scatter," Goldman said.

James Sandoro said he flew with Mark Croce at least 100 times.

"He is the best pilot I ever flew with," Sandoro said. "He was the most conscientious, no-nonsense pilot."

Sandoro said Croce owned a brand-new Cirrus plane equipped with a parachute and had ordered a jet-style, 5-passenger Cirrus that was due in July. "He was so excited about it," Sandoro said.

Sandoro and a relative of Capriotto said the two men had made the trip to check out a gyrocopter, also known as a gyroplane, because Croce was interested in purchasing one.

Croce, who is survived by his wife, Jessica, and sons Dominic and Dante, was one of Buffalo's most prominent developers and restaurateurs. He was also well-known for his love of flying.

In 2011, he bought the 18-story former Statler Towers out of bankruptcy, preventing the abandoned historic building from being mothballed. He has since invested or planned to invest more than $10 million dollars to stabilize the building, particularly the façade, and to revive the first two floors as a banquet and events center.

He also renovated the former Curtiss Building, transforming it into a boutique high-end hotel. He also helped start the Emerson School of Hospitality, ran Pay2Park and owned downtown hotspots including the Buffalo Chophouse, D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub and Skybar.

Politicians shared their condolences about Croce Friday. Mayor Byron W. Brown called him "a big part of our downtown resurgence, adding jobs for residents and creating destinations that have brought many visitors to the City of Buffalo. His presence will be sorely missed."

Rep. Brian Higgins said on Twitter that Croce "was as big a booster of Buffalo as there ever was" and called the death of him and Capriotto an "incomprehensible tragedy."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz sent condolences via Twitter.

"I'm shocked and very saddened to wake up to the sad news of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Mark Croce and Michael Capriotto. Mark was a very experienced pilot and loved traveling in his helicopter. My deepest condolences go out to both families at this sad time."

Croce's Buffalo Development Corp. released a statement Friday afternoon to thank supporters and "to assure the employees and the public that the businesses will continue without interruption."

Capriotto was a major figure in Orchard Park.

He was a former Orchard Park village trustee and was president of the Woodlawn Cemetery Association. He owned Bauer Service, an auto service shop located across from Town Hall that was previously owned by his father and uncle. Capriotto later converted the service shop into Bauer’s Village Center, which now hosts a Kwik Fill gas station, Tim Hortons café, Subway restaurant and an electric bike retail shop called Pedego Buffalo. The bike shop opened in 2016.

Capriotto is survived by his wife, Joanne, and three children: Jenny, John and Catherine.

Orchard Park Mayor Jo Ann Litwin Clinton said Capriotto's impact on the village went far beyond the business he owned.

"He's just a major part of the community, a pillar, there to help and always willing and a positive force," she said.

Erie County Legislator John Mills, R-Orchard Park, described Capriotto as someone who was dedicated to his community but didn't seek credit for his actions.

"I think he has a lot of dedication to his family and his hometown," Mills said. "That's one of his shining accomplishments, his activity in the village and moving things forward, different projects."

He was also an active participant in village affairs, friends said.

“Mike never let any grass grow under his feet,” said David Bergner, owner of Bauer Automotive in Orchard Park, a repair shop that once was affiliated with Bauer Service. “He did a lot of things for this community.”

Original article can be found here ➤

SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania — The Cumberland County Coroner's Office has released the names of the two victims that were killed when a helicopter crashed in a Silver Spring Township neighborhood Thursday night.

According to the coroner's report, the pilot of the helicopter was identified as 58-year-old Mark D. Groce of Orchard Park, New York.

The coroner says Groce was killed along with a passenger, 63-year-old Michael Capriotto also of Orchard Park, New York.

Officials say the helicopter was traveling from Washington D.C. on its way to Buffalo, New York when it crashed around 8:30 p.m. in the first block of Irongate Court in Mechanicsburg.

Multiple radio stations tell CBS 21 that Groce was a prominent business figure in Buffalo who owned one of the largest steak houses in the area and is known for revitalizing the downtown community.

According to the FAA, the helicopter involved in the crash was a Robinson R66 and was registered to Redmark Capital LLC in Buffalo New York.

No one on the ground was injured in the crash.

The crash is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Story and video ➤

The Cumberland County Coroner’s Office has identified two men killed in a helicopter crash in Silver Spring Township on Thursday night.

The pilot is identified as 58-year-old Mark D. Croce, 58, of Orchard Park, New York. The passenger of the rotorcraft is identified as 63-year-old Michael Capriotto, 63, also of Orchard Park.

The helicopter was enroute to Buffalo from Washington DC when the crash happened, according to a news release.

The crash remains under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The rotorcraft came down at around 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the yard of a home along Surrey Lane. No significant damage was reported to homes, but debris from the crash scattered to several yards.

Story and video ➤

The Buffalo businessman who owns Curtiss Hotel, Chop House, Statler City and so many other businesses that has influenced Buffalo in so many ways passed away on Thursday, January 9th.

A helicopter flown by Mark Croce and his passenger Michael Capriotto, both of Orchard Park crashed in Pennsylvania around 8:30 PM yesterday. Nobody else was hurt in the accident.

Croce started off his business career as a deli owner in Amherst. Other businesses he started, took over, or had a hand in are The Coliseum, Sky Bar and CEO of Buffalo Development Corp.

Original article can be found here ➤

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