Aircraft slams into house
WINDHAM – A homebuilt aircraft that crashed into a house under construction left the pilot with nonlife-threatening injuries Tuesday afternoon.
Less than a week after a passenger plane crashed into a Buffalo, N.Y., home and killed 50 people, reporters and cameramen outnumbered police and fire investigators on Harvest Road after an ultra-light aircraft, which isn’t considered a plane by the Federal Aviation Administration, crashed around 3 p.m.
The ultra-light piloted by Marge Venditti, 47, of Lane Road in Chester, clipped the roof of one home before crashing into the wall of 23 Harvest Road.
Venditti complained of back pain and trouble breathing, according to Windham Fire Chief Thomas McPherson, and was transported to Parkland Medical Center in Derry.
At the time of the accident, Chad Hall, a 34-year-old electrician with O’Keefe Electric of Londonderry, was inside working on the same wall the plane crashed into. The Manchester resident said he heard an engine getting closer to the house but assumed it was from a snowmobile on a trail in the backyard.
“I didn’t know it was that close to the house,” he said.
Hall and his fellow workers were wiring the unfinished and unoccupied house when the crash happened. He quickly ran outside and saw the wreckage strewn across the side yard.
“I wasn’t even sure it was a plane,” he said.
Another O’Keefe Electric employee, 24-year-old Atkinson resident Derek Reardon, was outside minutes before the crash retrieving supplies from a van.
He said he noticed the plane because he heard the engine revving and ebbing and saw that it was flying in circles, dipping and rising over some trees to the northwest in the direction of Cobbetts Pond.
According to witnesses, the plane may have taken off from the pond, McPherson said.
As the circles got wider and the ultra-light got lower, Reardon decided that outside wasn’t a safe place to be. He went inside and was about to tell Hall to get away from the wall when the plane hit, shaking the house.
“I knew exactly what it was when I heard it,” Reardon said. “I dropped what I had and ran.”
Hall, Reardon and other O’Keefe Electric employees could hear the woman calling for help and started pulling pieces of the destroyed plane off her when an off-duty Manchester firefighter who happened to be nearby arrived, disconnected and removed the plane’s fuel tank and started tending to the woman.
“Honestly, it didn’t look like anyone was in that plane,” Reardon said.
About eight minutes later, rescue crews arrived, he said.
McPherson said the off-duty firefighter was “a big help,” but didn’t know the man’s name.
Clearly the crash could have been much more severe. The plane landed atop an underground propane tank and collided with the tanks connection to the house, he said.
“She’s very fortunate,” McPherson said of the pilot. “Another scenario and it could have been devastating.”
Monica Jangro was folding laundry in the house next door when the plane clipped her roof, putting a hole in the ceiling of an unfinished second-floor room. She thought there had been an explosion.
“I thought it was my gas tank,” Jangro said. “Then I looked out the window and saw the wreckage. I couldn’t believe it.
Local investigators contacted the FAA, which turned the scene over to police, McPherson said.
Windham police Sgt. Mike Caron said police will store the mangled pieces of the plane at the police department until FAA investigators arrive to inspect them and determine whether they will take over the investigation.
The plane’s owner, whose name wasn’t available, told police that the plane doesn’t need to be registered with the FAA because of its size, Caron said.
Jim Peters, an FAA spokesperson, said ultra-lights aren’t even considered aircrafts. They have small engines, do not have to take off from or land at airports, and a pilot’s license isn’t needed to fly one.
Ultra-light crashes happen relatively often, he said.
Arlene Salac, another FAA spokesperson, said the FAA does not usually investigate crashes of unregistered ultra-lights. No national data is kept on such crashes.