Search for Angel Flight crash victim continues

EPHRATAH – Rescue workers this morning began the fourth day of a search for the body of a brain-cancer patient who is presumed dead from a plane crash Friday.

Frank and Evelyn Amerosa of Utica were aboard an Angel Flight on Friday night when the twin-engine aircraft went down in Ephratah.

Rescue workers have been scouring woods and a 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, authorities said.

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 this morning.

State Forest Ranger Lt. Steven Preston said this morning about 40 to 45 volunteers from the State Search and Rescue Team would conduct a land search today.

He said the team is trained by rangers and includes four dog units that will go over the area already searched to see if they can uncover anything others may have missed.

Preston said no state police helicopter will be used for an aerial search today. A helicopter was at the scene over the holiday weekend.

Rockwood-Garoga-Lassellsville Volunteer Fire Company Chief Mark Souza said this morning the search teams already have covered a two-mile radius around the crash site, which is off Route 29 near the Royal Mountain Campsites.

He said a dive team was called in to remove plane wreckage submerged in the pond.

“They are here setting up,” Souza said this morning.

He said he couldn’t speculate whether workers will remove the plane from the water today.

The pond is off Route 29 opposite the campsites.

On Monday, Fulton County Fire Coordinator Allan Polmateer said crews from local fire departments, the state police and state park rangers were searching wooded areas in sections and double-checking their search.

Polmateer said two square miles were covered on foot and three square miles by helicopter as of Monday afternoon.

“There is a lot of heavy tree coverage,” Polmateer said.

Crews also were working around the pond area Monday.

Angel Flight

Frank Amerosa, a retired trucker, had been diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago.

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.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said over the weekend equipment and personnel will pull 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.

Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said the aircraft was lost on radar at about 7,000 feet.

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.

Evelyn Amerosa, 58, worked at a nursing home directing residents in activities such as bingo and trips – a job she loved, said her daughter Heather Theobald. She said her mother had been with her stepfather 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.”

A statement from the family of John Campbell said, “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.”

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.