Monday, September 10, 2012
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SHIRLEY – The single-engine plane that crashed shortly after takeoff from Brookhaven Airport on Long Island on Sunday, August 19, took off in a pace described by witnesses as “slow” and “anemic,” the National Transportation Safety Board said it is initial report. It crashed after it narrowly missed a house.
The pilot/owner of the plane, David McElroy, 53, of Long Island, and a passenger, Goshen School District administrator Jane Unhjem, 60, were killed. Mrs. Unhjem’s husband, Erik, sustained serious injuries in the crash.
Witnesses told NTSB investigators that the airplane used almost the entire length of the 4,222 foot long runway before it took off. They described the plane as it climbed slowly to tree top height, in a nose-high pitch attitude, and disappeared from view. Moments later, they said a large smoke plume appeared out of the trees a short distance past the airport boundary.
A witness who stood on his back porch told the NTSB that the plane appeared above the trees at the back border of his property, and that the sound of the engine was “really loud.”
The plane descended over his backyard and below the height of his one-story house in a left 30 degree bank, then pitched up, climbed over the house, and struck a tree and construction dumpster in front of the house where it burst into flames. The witness ran to the scene and tried to extinguish the fire and assist the people in the plane.
The plane, manufactured in 1991, was issued a “ferry permit” in June 2012, to allow it to be relocated for an annual inspection and other maintenance at Brookhaven Airport. The mechanic who ferried the plane told the NTSB there was nothing wrong with the performance and handling on the flight to the airport.