Air club identifies crash victims

Published 9:57 am Monday, February 2, 2009

staff report

WAYNE, W.Va. — The victims in Friday afternoon’s plane crash near Tri-State Airport have been identified as members of a Chicago-based Polish American aviation club.

That information has come from the president of American Polish-Aero-Club Chester Wojnicki.

Email newsletter signup

The club members are Kazimierz Adamski of Morton Grove, Wieslaw Dobrzanksi of Niles, Irenevsz Michalowski of Des Plaines and Stanislaw Matras of Chicago.

Also on the twin-engine Piper PA-34 were two guests, Monika Niemiec and her father, Stanley Niemiec, both of Harwood Heights.

Wojnicki said the destination of the group was Clearwater, Fla., but that they had intended to stop in West Virginia to look at a plane for sale. The crash occurred near Plymale Branch Road in rural Wayne County.

Shortly after 1 p.m. the pilot alerted an air traffic controller at Tri-State Airport that he was low on fuel and was attempting to land. That is according to Kevin Price, fire chief for Tri-State Airport.

“Very early on I realized this was a recovery (effort),” Price said. “As soon as I was on the scene.”

Local law enforcement and emergency units from the surrounding area responded as soon as a call went into the local 911 dispatcher. However, investigating the crash came under the jurisdiction of the National Transportation Safety Board, which was on the scene late Friday afternoon.

Brian Rayner, senior air investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, was in charge of the investigation and held a press conference Saturday afternoon.

“This was not their destination,” Rayner said. “The tower advised they were coming here due to low fuel status.”

The plane was “completely fragmented,” by the crash with the cockpit and cabin destroyed but the plane was “largely undamaged by fire,” Rayner said.

As of Saturday investigators were still looking for one propeller that was not in the wreckage.

The crash was heard by those living along the Plymale Branch Road area.

Pam Asbury was working at her desk when she heard the crash. Asbury lives about 300 yards from the crash site.

“I heard it all right. It wasn’t an explosion. I thought a tree had fallen on a house,” Asbury said.

Asbury tried to walk out to the area.

“Snow was coming down so hard you could hardly see,” she said. “I walked out there and couldn’t see and walked down to Plymale Branch. I could see a little bit on the hillside.”

The cold snowy weather that hit the Tri-State was hampering investigators as they combed the hillside looking for clues to why the crash happened.

“Weather is going to affect the order in which we do things,” Rayner said on Saturday.

The final report on what happened could take up to a year to complete.