At least two killed in plane crash

ROCKWOOD – At least two people were killed in a plane crash off Route 29 near the Royal Mountain Campsites today, authorities said.

Fulton County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Garth Hillier said emergency crews were searching late into the night for a third person who was in the small plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported the three people were in a Piper PA 34 aircraft. The plane departed from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., and was headed to Rome, N.Y., the FAA reported. The crash occurred at 5:10 p.m.

Hillier said rescue crews found the plane in several pieces and recovered part of the engine. Officials found wreckage in a field and water.

He said he didn’t know whether the airplane blew apart in the air or came apart upon impact. He said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash, which now is being investigated by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Officials set up a command center near Granny’s Ice Cream Shanty on Route 29, next to the Royal Mountain Campsites.

The scene of the crash is a wooded area and field across the road from the command center.

Two women running the ice cream stand said they witnessed the plane crash. The women, who declined to give their names, said it was a small plane and that police told them two people were in it.

“It definitely exploded into pieces,” one of the women said.

The other woman stated, “We were sitting here and we could hear like an engine fail. Then it was silent for a few seconds. Then we heard an explosion like a gunshot.”

The women said they ran out to the field and could see several pieces of wreckage, but no bodies. They immediately called 911, they said.

Emergency vehicles from the Sheriff’s Department, state police, Rockwood-Garoga-Lassellsville Volunteer Fire Department and Caroga Lake Fire Department were at the scene throughout the evening.

Also at the scene was Fulton County Coroner Margaret Luck, ambulances and search vehicles. Before nightfall, law-enforcement officials set up a canopy next to the command center.

Traffic was backed up on Route 29 as emergency crews were working at the scene. By early evening, emergency workers were told the FAA was due to come to the scene.

About 7 p.m., authorities told a reporter from The Leader-Herald to stop taking pictures and move away from the command center. The reporter was told by a Sheriff’s Department representative he would be arrested if he didn’t move quickly and stop taking photos.