Champion, PA Private Plane Crashes, Jul 2002


Champion, Pa. (AP) - Authorities are investigating a plane crash that killed a pilot and passenger just moments after they left an airfield amid heavy fog at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
The identities of those aboard had not been released pending notification of their families.
The blue-and-white Piper Cherokee, believed to have been headed for Kentucky, went down just a half mile from the end of the ski resort's 3,800-foot runway Sunday afternoon.
"It's in the middle of the woods," said Somerset County emergency dispatcher Neil Clay. "Both passengers were killed."
Authorities from the Civil Air Patrol, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Search and Rescue Command Center in Langley, Va., which monitors a satellite for distress signals from planes, began picking up signals from an emergency transmitter aboard the plane shortly after 3 p.m.
However, the steep, densely forested terrain and heavy fog made the search especially difficult, said Clarence Saylor, the New Centerville Volunteer Fire Department chief. The signal from the plane's emergency transmitter bounced off surrounding hills, making it hard for searchers to get a true reading, Saylor said.
"You can't see your hand in front of your face," said Seven Springs police Chief Joe Thomas about an hour into the nearly four-hour search.
The airport sits at an elevation of 2,926 feet, and visibility was poor at the time of the crash, with fog, rain and cloud cover.
Police and firefighters first set up a command center at the King's Mountain Golf Course about 5 miles southwest of the resort, but the post was later moved to the resort airport as officials closed in on the signal.
Three mountain hikers who were at Seven Springs said they were told by searchers on all-terrain vehicles to be on the lookout for any wreckage in the area; they came across the wrecked plane in heavy underbrush.
"You could be ten feet away from it and not even see it," said Tyson Keslar. The bikers said they had actually passed the plane once before being told of the wreckage.
"It was just the body of the plane. You couldn't se the wings at all," he said.
Officials from the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board planned to investigate the crash.
Herman Dupre, one of the owners of the resort, said the Seven Springs airfield is unattended and there is no log of departures, arrivals or passengers. The field has 30-40 departures a day during peak times in the spring and fall seasons and fewer in the summer, he said.
The 5,000-acre resort, about 55 miles east of Pittsburgh, attracts roughly 1 million visitors a year.

Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 2002-07-21