DEC says plane crashed into McKenzie Mountain Wilderness (2nd update)

Forest rangers rescued three men early Friday morning after their small plane crashed into the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness early Thursday evening.

State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Dave Winchell identified the men as 54-year-old Michael Oster, 58-year-old Jeff O’Connor and 51-year-old Frank Dombroski, all from Westfield, N.J. The plane was on its way to the Lake Placid Airport when it crashed.

The Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service assessed the subjects, who declined further treatment or transport, Winchell said in a statement. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson told the Associated Press that the plane was a Vans RV-10 amateur-built experimental aircraft and crashed at 6 p.m. Thursday. The spokesperson said the flight departed from Somerset Airport in Bedminster, N.J.

Initial news reports had the plane crashing into Nye Mountain in the High Peaks because that’s where emergency responders first thought the plane had crashed.

The plane crash was reported to Essex County 911 at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday by one of the men in the plane, using a cell phone. The caller provided coordinates of the crash site, which were relayed to DEC’s dispatch center in Ray Brook. When the coordinates were plotted on a map, the site of the plane crash was near the summit of Nye Mountain, a High Peak south of Lake Placid and just west of the Adirondak Loj.

Six forest rangers responded with snowmobiles to private lands north of Nye Mountain and headed to the crash site with cold-weather gear.

A state police helicopter was also dispatched from the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, but at 7:35 p.m. its crew advised other searchers that they were unable to reach the crash site due to weather and darkness.

A forest ranger was in direct phone contact with the men at the crash site. They reported that they were in good condition, had erected a tarp as a temporary shelter and put on extra clothing to stay warm.

At 10:50 p.m., forest rangers concluded that Nye Mountain was not the correct location. It was determined that the original coordinates were provided in an untypical format, Winchell said.

Plotting the coordinates in another format, it was determined that the crash site was actually just west of Lake Placid, near Big Burn Mountain, and the Jackrabbit Trail.

Three of the forest rangers were redirected from Nye Mountain to Big Burn Mountain and were joined by a fourth ranger. The forest rangers were able to reach the crash site by snowmobile via the Jackrabbit Trail.

Forest Rangers located the three men at 1:55 a.m. The men were evacuated by snowmobile to the Whiteface Inn Road, where they were evaluated by the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service. It was determined the men were fine, and they declined any further medical treatment or transport.

State police are providing crash site security pending investigation by the FAA.

The crash caused planes to be delayed at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.

“Cape Air had to delay landings by maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and a private plane that was looking to take off. They were delayed close to an hour,” said airport manager Corey Hurwich.

The private plane was headed to Danbury, Conn. and the Cape Air plane was inbound from Boston.

“As soon as air traffic lost communications with the RV(-10), they wouldn’t let any other aircraft in the area until they determined it was safe,” Hurwich said.