Niagara Gazette

Crime

July 6, 2014

FAA officials to investigate Royalton Airport plane crash on Monday

Niagara Gazette — Thick woods surrounding Royalton Airport likely saved the life of the pilot involved in Saturday's small plane crash in Gasport.

The wooded area was also an obstacle rescuers had to overcome, Sheriff James Voutour said.

It took first responders 15 to 20 minutes to get to the plane due to the thickness of the brush. The pilot had to be cut out of the aircraft and taken by stretcher back to the runway for Mercy Flight, which took about an hour. A backhoe was used to clear a path to the plane.

"It's very deep in the woods," he said. "Very thick woods."

The plane, a two-seat light-sport aircraft, sustained "substantial" damage, Voutour said. 

"One of the wings is broken off," he said. "Probably luckily, it came in through very, very thick trees, which cushioned the landing."

The Federal Aviation Authority out of Rochester will be on the scene on Monday morning to determine the cause of the crash. 

The 79-year-old Erie County pilot, the only person on board the plane, suffered facial injuries, said Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour. The pilot was conscious and was able to speak to investigators from the sheriff's office before being taken to Erie County Medical Center.

Staff in the control tower at the airport said they saw the plane veer sharply to the right just after taking off.  The plane turned on it's side and crashed into the trees approximately 200 to 300 feet south of the runway.

Along with the sheriff's office, the New York State Police, the Gasport Volunteer Fire Co. and Tri-Community Ambulance assisted in the operation. Fire officials from across the county also responded to the scene, Voutour said. 

Until FAA officials arrive on Monday, the crash scene is under "secured watch," Voutour said.

"The concern we have is that there's a parachute in the plane that's catapulted under an explosive type measure and that has not gone off," he said. 

Several different measure will be used to secure the site, from video surveillance to patrols, Voutour added. 

"It's off limits," he said. 

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