By Matthew Turner and Andy Flynn
Special to the Times
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Three people, including possibly a West Virginia resident, died Saturday morning when a small plane crashed and burned on a River Road farm near Lake Placid, N.Y.
New York State Police Capt. John Tibbitts confirmed the deaths at a press conference. Police had not yet released the identities of the three victims over the weekend, Tibbitts said.
Press reports from media sources in the Lake Placid area indicated the pilot and at least one passenger were from West Virginia - and possibly from the Mid-Ohio Valley - but no official confirmation could be obtained late Sunday night. Further information is expected to be available from the New York State Police this morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the single-engine plane's crash, and state police were holding the scene for them, Tibbitts said.
"At this time we don't know whether the plane was taking off or landing," Tibbitts said. "We have very little information on the flight pattern."
The plane was a Mooney MO20 model, according to FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac.
It crashed near the Lake Placid Airport on the property of Snowslip Farm, among some evergreen trees about 40 feet from the road. Lesley Trevor and her family own the 125-acre farm and was in a barn with her daughter Emily when they heard a plane flying low overheard. Then they heard it crash.
"We heard a big, horrible thud," Trevor said. "My daughter said 'Oh, my God, it's right here!'
"We saw it burn. It was right there. There was nothing we could do. We couldn't save them."
Their horses were on the other side of the burning plane, so Trevor and her daughter rushed to move them around to a different location.
A call from someone at the nearby Lake Placid Airport first alerted authorities to the crash at 10:39 a.m. Saturday, Tibbitts said. The plane was fully engulfed in flames when a reporter got to the scene less than five minutes later.
The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department was the first emergency agency on the scene, at 10:44 a.m., and extinguished the burning plane quickly. There was some concern that there was extra gas in the plane that could explode, but that didn't happen, fire Chief Torry Hoffman said.
Jay Rand, a North Elba town councilman who lives on River Road, was one of the first people on the scene. He was on his way to a local lumber yard and stopped, encouraging people to stay away from the burning plane in case it might explode.
Meanwhile, people were still trying to run and bike on River Road, but authorities closed it off to traffic.
Lake Placid village police, the Lake Placid Ambulance Service, the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department and the state Department of Environmental Conservation were also on the scene.
Naj Wikoff, of Keene Valley, who works with Snowslip Farm on an equine healing project, showed up as soon as he heard.
"This is a very tragic event to have happened," he said. "Nobody wants this to happen ever."