Today June 26, at approximately 7:41 a.m., Knox County Sheriff Deputies Robert Potter and Paul Simonetti responded to the airstrip on Vinalhaven for an airplane crash. More than 15 volunteer Vinalhaven firefighters, with three fire engines, and four EMTs responded immediately to the scene. A family nurse practitioner and a physician’s assistant also responded, when they heard the call.
A small mail plane belonging to Penobscot Air crashed at the end of the 1,500-foot runway into trees. The aircraft was a Cessna 207, a single-engine plane, with fixed landing gear.
Pilot Ted Westlake was alert and conscious, but with apparent injuries, according to Sheriff Donna Dennison. There were no passengers with him.
“He was up and walking,” she said in a news release. “He could not remember what happened and was flown to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport.”
Penobscot Island Air immediately dispatched another plane to the island to transport Westlake when personnel heard of the crash.
According to Vinalhaven’s public information officer, Jeff Aronson, the weather conditions on Vinalhaven this morning included a light breeze under clear skies. The temperature as about 70 degrees F.
The Vinalhaven air strip, which runs northeast to southwest, is town-owned, and closed but for the use of Penobscot Air, whose headquarters are at Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head. Westlake was approaching the airstrip from the southwest.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been notified, per regulation.
At 1:15 p.m., a spokesman for Penobscot Air said Westlake was “doing fine.”
Westlake had been delivering mail to Vinalhaven when the crash occurred.
“It was a routine morning mail delivery,” said Aronson.
A regular crew was waiting for his arrival to take the mail and distribute it around the island. When the crash occurred, the firefighters and EMTs were on scene immediately, said Aronson.
Westlake extracted himself from the wreckage and began walking away from the plane, as rescuers hurried down the strip to help him.
“He knew enough of what to do,” said Aronson.
Incident commander was Jessica Martin, who assumed control of the scene. Vinalhaven’s Fire Chief Marc Candage was on the mainland this morning, and per protocol, had assigned command already to Martin before he left for the day.
Vinalhaven firefighters and EMTs worked seamlessly, and their quick and efficient response reflected their commitment to constant and consistent training.
Penobscot Island Air is the region’s charter service and runs regularly to the islands, maintaining vital services and making deliveries. It also assists in transporting injured and ill patients from Vinalhaven, when needed.
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