Plane crash rescuers lauded (update)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the forest rangers, state police and local emergency personnel who worked together to rescue three men in a plane crash in the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness late Thursday and early Friday morning.

“No matter the weather conditions or the time of day, our state’s first responders step up to the call of duty and do what is necessary to find and rescue people that are lost or injured,” Cuomo said in a press release. “These first responders went above and beyond to save lives and on behalf of all New Yorkers I thank them for their bravery and service.”

The statement from Cuomo’s office singled out forest rangers Lt. Charles Platt, Joe LaPierre, Scott VanLaer, Jim Giglinto, Kevin Burns, David Russell, Pete Evans and Chris Kostoss.

“Responding to a small plane crash near Lake Placid, a team of DEC Forest Rangers walked miles in the bitter cold and dark through rough terrain to find and safely rescue three individuals who were in the aircraft,” Cuomo said.

The plane was a Vans RV-10 amateur-built experimental aircraft, and it crashed at 6 p.m. Thursday, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson told the Associated Press. The spokesperson said the flight departed from Somerset Airport in Bedminster, N.J.

An Enterprise reporter visited the site of the crash, not far from the Jackrabbit Cross-Country Ski Trail, late Friday afternoon. The plane was still in one piece, resting at a roughly 45-degree angle, nose down, in a tight grove of spruce and birch trees, several of which had their trunks broken off by the plane. The plane’s front end, including its propeller and engine, took the brunt of the impact and were smashed into the ground. Its cabin area was largely intact, although the glass in the cabin door windows and front windshield was shattered.

Tony Goodwin of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, which maintains the Jackrabbit Trail, had been up to see the wreckage just before the Enterprise. He said “shear curiosity” drew him to the site.

“Never been to a totally fresh one before, and I was interested to see what the plane looked like because they said it was experimental,” Goodwin said. “It’s probably a fairly light plane, and they were flying slowly to begin with, and it was just the right combination of treetops that slowed their fall.”

The three men in the crash were 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.

After the crash, one of the men called Essex County 911 from a cell phone, initiating the search efforts. Forest rangers originally searched the Nye Mountain area, looking for the plane there because of the coordinates one of the men gave them indicated the crash was in that area.

“At 10:50 p.m. forest rangers concluded that Nye Mountain location was not the correct location,” a statement from the DEC said. “At about this same time the first two forest rangers had hiked three miles to the crash site and confirmed there was no airplane present. It was determined through discussions with others that the original coordinates were provided in untypical format. Plotting the coordinates in the other format it was determined that the crash site was actually just west of Lake Placid near Big Burn Mountain.”

Forest rangers initiated a new search from that area, starting at the trailhead for the Jackrabbit Trail off of Whiteface Inn Road. They found the men at 1:55 a.m. and had them out of the woods by about 3:30 a.m. The men were checked out by the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service but apparently didn’t have any serious injuries and declined further treatment.

Temperatures were in the single digits Thursday night into Friday, and there was light snowfall. The men stayed warm by using a tarp as a temporary shelter and putting on extra clothing.

The FAA is investigating the crash.

Enterprise Senior Staff Writer Chris Knight contributed to this report.

Contact Mike Lynch at 518-891-2600 ext. 28 or