University of Maine identifies three killed in Owls Head plane crash
Dublin RoadOwls Head Maine 04854United States
OWLS HEAD — Officials at the University of Maine at Orono have identified the three victims of Friday night's plane crash at Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head as Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity members, including two students and an alumnus.
A Cessna 172 single engine plane crashed in the woods at Knox County Regional Airport early Friday evening, killing three people onboard. Knox County Chief Deputy Tim Carroll said Saturday afternoon that release of the names of the victims likely would take a week, as the Medical Examiner's Office is conducting DNA tests to confirm identities.
"It has been a day-long event trying to properly identify the victims of the crash," said Carroll in an email around 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
"Working with family and friends of the deceased of possible people involved is ongoing at this time," he said. "Working with the State of Maine Medical Examiners Office and Fire Marshal's Office, positive identification will not be released until DNA results are confirmed, which won't be until later this week."
Just before 8 p.m. Saturday, UMaine issued a news release on its website, naming those killed as 22-year-old David Cheney of Beverly, Mass., a business major and president of Lambda Chi Alpha, and 24-year-old Marcelo Rugini, a foreign exchange student who lived in Nobleboro. Rugini was from Muliterno, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and he was an economics major at UMaine.
Also reported killed was 24-year-old William "B. J." Hannigan III, of South Portland, who graduated from UMaine in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.
The university cited fraternity members in identifying Cheney, Rugini and Hannigan as the three men killed Friday.
In the news release, UMaine President Paul W. Ferguson said: "Friday night, the University of Maine community lost three outstanding young men. In their leadership and involvement in the UMaine community, they touched the lives of students, faculty and staff. At this difficult time, our thoughts are with their families and friends, near and far."
Also quoted in the news release was UMaine Dean of Students Robert Dana, who said: "UMaine’s Greek and international student communities are mourning the loss of three of their own, but they are not alone in their grief. Losing these three young men —David, Marcelo and B.J. — is a loss for the entire UMaine community and the many people — including faculty and staff — whose lives they touched. They brought great light and energy to our campus, and we will miss them. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends."
Aproximately 1,000 yards into take-off from Runway 13/31, the plane, headed north, struck a service truck crossing the runway, causing the plane to crash around 4:50 p.m. Nov. 16. Carroll identified the driver of the 1994 GMC Sonoma pickup truck as 62-year-old Stephen Turner of Camden.
"The aircraft got a little air for a short time before crashing into the woods," said Carroll. Firefighters and emergency responders found the aircraft on fire at the end of the runway, at the edge of the woods, and extinguished the blaze.
Carroll said the three passengers were found deceased inside the fuselage. Carroll said the plane was not a local one. He said the plane also did not belong to Cape Air or Penobscot Air.
Airport sources said the plane may have lost its stabilizer after striking the truck, and that the plane continued to climb before losing control, attempting to turn, and then crashing.
Carroll said Turner's being on the runway was not unusual.
"Turner is a licensed pilot that works out of the airport and was crossing the runway at that time. Turner had just assisted in putting a plane away in a hanger across from the terminal. This was routine practice that occurs daily," said Carroll in the email.
"It is normal for trucks like that to be crossing, and given the frequency of vehicle traffic on the runway, those on the runway and those flying are given a radio frequency to communicate and notify when they are moving around," said Carroll Friday night. Whether Turner failed to notify of his movement across the runway Friday night, or the pilot failed to heed the call or if he or she heard it, remains a large part of the investigation into the cause of the accident, according to Carroll.
"Who didn't know about who, that part is still in the process of being figured out," said Carroll. Turner is not a county employee, and was not driving county-owned equipment.
Carroll said Friday night the National Transportation Safety Board, District Attorney and Medical Examiner's office had all been notified. He said the Fire Marshal's Office was on scene and a representative from the Federal Aviation Administration was en route.
Emergency responders set up a command post on Dublin Road at the east end of the airport. Dublin Road was closed to traffic much of the night. As of 6:30 p.m., Rockland firefighters had cleared the scene, and Knox County Sheriff deputies and airport personnel were combing the runway for evidence. Also assisting at the scene were Rockland and South Thomaston EMS units, and Owls Head and South Thomaston fire departments.
A message from UMaine: Any student affected by this event who would like an opportunity to talk with someone can contact the UMaine Counseling Center at 581-1392. Faculty and staff with similar concerns can contact the Employee Assistance Program at 581-4014.