Officials continue probe of fatal plane crash

Prelimary investigation report expected in 10 days
By George Chappell | Nov 20, 2012
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle A Maine Forest Service helicopter flies over the scene of a fatal plane crash Nov. 17 at Knox County Regional Airport.

Owls Head — The investigation of the plane crash that killed three young men at the Knox County Regional Airport Nov. 16 could take between 12 to 18 months to complete, an aviation official in Washington, D.C., said Monday.

Eric Weiss, a public relations specialist with the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency in charge of the investigation, said that although research could take up to 18 months, "generally there is a preliminary report available within 10 days of the date of the crash."

"We do post a preliminary accident report on our website when we have a serious accident," said Weiss. "We investigate every accident that's fatal."

The aircraft was a 1979 Cessna Model 172N, four-seat plane with a Federal Aviation Administration registry number of N6142F. It is a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft owned by ANG Aero Club Inc., in Bangor.

The plane with its three occupants was headed north on the airport runway at 4:44 p.m. Friday when it collided with a pickup truck on takeoff. Stephen Turner, 62, of Camden, was driving his 1994 GMC truck across the runway when it collided with the plane.

The plane became airborne but crashed in the woods nearby soon after takeoff, killing all three people on board, officials said.

The truck was authorized to be on airport grounds, said Chief Deputy Tim Carroll of the Knox County Sheriff's Office.

John Newcomb, president of Downeast Air airline services company, and Carroll were among those who tried to rescue the occupants right after the crash.

A helicopter from the Maine Forest Service was called to remove the wreckage, said Carroll Nov. 19.

Roland Herwig of the FAA Public Affairs office checked the accident history of the 33-year-old plane for The Courier-Gazette and called back to say the plane's history was accident-free.

A witness out walking her dog near the airport said she saw no lights on the plane. Carroll said later that the lighting would have to be determined by NTSB investigators.

"As far as I know, with proper training, and with a radio, a driver can operate a vehicle on the runway," Carroll said. "The NTSB will determine the legitimacy of whether the lights were on."

The three victims have been identified by their University of Maine fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, said university officials. The crash victims are pilot William "B.J." Hannigan, 24, of South Portland, and passengers David Cheney, 22, of Beverly, Mass., and Marcelo Rugini, 24, of Muliterno, Brazil, who has been living in Nobleboro as an exchange student.

The Chief Medical Examiner's Office is expected to conclude its autopsy of the victims by Wednesday, Nov. 21 and make an official identification, Carroll said. Media reports of the names of three individuals killed in the crash are not official, he added. Their identity won't be known until after the medical examiner has checked their DNA.

Any investigation into the accident or conditions at the airport at the time of the collision will be conducted by the NTSB, said Carroll. The Knox County Sheriff's Office was the lead investigator in the beginning until the FAA and NTSB became involved, he said.

Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at

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