Officials identify 2 people killed in small plane crash in South Portland, Maine

By Clarke Canfield, AP
Saturday, July 17, 2010

Maine officials ID 2 killed in small plane crash

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Officials say two men have died in a small plane crash near the Portland International Jetport in Maine.

Portland city spokesman Nicole Clegg said the noncommercial plane went down about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, a short distance from the runway of the airport and a few blocks from the busy Maine Mall in South Portland.

The victims have been identified as 42-year-old pilot Mark Haskell and a 66-year-old Thomas Casagrande. Their hometowns weren’t released.

Officials said they were investigating what caused the crash of the YAK-52, a Russian-made plane introduced in the 1970s for aeronautic training.

No other injuries were reported.

Witnesses said shortly after taking off, the plane made a sharp turn and began its descent.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Two people were killed Saturday when the small plane they were in crashed into a city street shortly after taking off from Portland International Jetport, officials said.

The Yak-52, a Soviet training aircraft introduced in the 1970s, crashed at about 3:30 p.m. on Western Avenue, a normally busy road lined with strip malls, retail outlets, offices and two semiconductor manufacturing plants.

Two people aboard the two-seater plane were killed, but their identities were not being released, said South Portland Fire Chief Kevin Guimond. There were no injuries reported on the ground.

Justin Crabtree, 32, of Portland, was leaving a nearby Staples store when he saw the plane make a sharp turn before diving.

“It was just a sharp turn and straight down to the ground,” he said.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators were called to the site. Calls to the FAA’s public relations office weren’t immediately returned.

The plane was based at the Portland International Jetport, but it wasn’t immediately known where it was headed, said jetport Director Paul Bradbury.

When Crabtree ran to the plane, he saw two men inside.

“They were both passed away — hopefully on impact so there wasn’t any suffering,” he said.

After the crash, people gathered in parking lots to view the plane, which was covered by a blue tarp with the pilot and passenger still inside. Its tail had a red star on it and jutted out from beneath the tarp.

Jordan Jackson, 12, of South Portland, said he watched the plane from his back yard and took note because it was an older, unusual-looking plane.

“It took a wicked sharp turn; it went up and then down,” Jackson said.

Officials expected a portion of Western Avenue to be blocked to traffic for hours while the crash was being investigated.

will not be displayed