EPHRATAH, N.Y. (AP) — A crew aboard a helicopter and dozens of other searchers scoured the woods and water in central New York for a third day Monday to look for a brain cancer patient who was on a volunteer medical flight that crashed last week. He is presumed dead.
Frank and Evelyn Amerosa of Utica, N.Y., were aboard an Angel Flight on Friday night when the twin-engine aircraft went down in Ephratah, a sleepy town about an hour west of Albany, according to police and family members.
John Campbell, 70, of Stamford, Conn., was flying the couple back from the Boston area, where Frank Amerosa was being treated for brain cancer, officials and family said.
The bodies of both Campbell and Evelyn Amerosa were recovered from the rural crash site. Searchers continued to look for the body of 64-year-old Frank Amerosa on Monday, authorities said.
Frank Amerosa, a retired trucker, had been diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago. Evelyn Amerosa, 58, worked at an area nursing home directing residents in activities like bingo and trips — a job she loved, said her daughter Heather Theobald. She said her mother had been with her step-father for at least 16 years. The couple loved to travel and had recently returned from the Bahamas.
“Very happy, very much love, very optimistic, they did everything for anybody,” Theobald said. “They were just very good people. They were loved by a lot of people.”
Campbell was a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight, a nonprofit group that arranges free air transportation for the sick. Angel Flight Northeast said it has set up free air transportation and medical care for more than 65,000 children and adults on about 60,000 flights covering more than 12 million miles. It was founded in 1996.
“John loved to fly and truly believed in the mission of Angel Flight. He loved volunteering his time and we take some solace in the fact he died doing something he loved while trying to help others,” according to a family statement.
Rescue workers have been scouring woods and a big, murky pond where the bulk of the aircraft was submerged. Wreckage from the crash was dispersed over a large area, with pieces of the plane and documents found as far as five miles away.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said equipment and personnel were expected at the scene Monday afternoon to begin pulling the fuselage from the water. Other debris has been collected from surrounding woods and fields and will be examined along with the main body of wreckage. Investigators are also looking for smartphones, GPS devices, computer tablets or other items that could “give the investigators some electronic evidence of what happened in the last minutes of flight,” he said.
The Piper PA 34 departed from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., and was headed to Rome, N.Y., before it crashed just after 5 p.m. Friday, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. The plane did not issue a distress call before losing radar and radio contact, the NTSB said.
Weiss said a preliminary NTSB report on the accident will be issued in about two weeks, with a final report on the probable cause in about 18 months.
Witnesses described the destruction that started in the air above Ephratah.
Joan Dudley, owner of Granny’s Ice Cream Shanty, which is less than a mile from the crash site, said she and her employees saw the plane flip, then fall apart Friday night.
“Parts and pieces of it were flying through the sky, and a body fell out,” Dudley said.
They called 911 as they parked their car and ran to the crash site in the rain to see if they could rescue anyone.
“Airplane parts were all over the place,” she said. “They were picking them up all over.”
Ephratah resident Roger Berry, 75, said he was outside chopping wood when the plane crashed.
“When I heard it, I knew something was wrong,” Berry said.
Berry said he heard a bang, then saw pieces of the plane fall from the sky. A motor fell 50 feet from his neighbor’s bedroom, where she was sleeping, Berry said.