Authorities are investigating after a small plane crashed into a multi-condo building in Methuen, Massachusetts, killing the pilot, a former mayor of Newburyport.
It happened on Riverview Boulevard, across the Merrimack River from the Lawrence Municipal Airport, around 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Methuen police and FAA officials say the 60-year-old male pilot was the only person on board the single-engine Sonex aircraft, which originated from Lawrence Municipal Airport, at the time of the crash and died at the scene.
The plane was on a one-mile final approach to Lawrence Municipal Airport when it crashed into a condo at Prides Crossing on Riverview Boulevard, the FAA added.
Although the name of the deceased pilot has not been officially released by investigators pending next-of-kin notification, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said Alan "Al" Lavender, who served as Newburyport's mayor from 2002 to 2003 and as a city councilor for eight years before that, was killed in Tuesday's crash.
Holaday called Lavender's death "a big loss for our city."
"He was such a caring and giving person," she said, adding that he encouraged her to first run for city council and eventually for the mayor's job.
Aaron Knight, a friend of Lavender, has the exact same plane. Knight, who's flown 100,000 miles in his own plane, says they are strong and Lavender was a good pilot.
"He’s gonna be so missed so terribly missed going to be really sad," said Knight.
The Methuen condo complex was the site of another small aircraft crash in 1999.
No residents were injured in the crash, which was contained to the building's attic, according to Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni.
Robert Nochunk lives in the condo next door and was startled by Tuesday's crash.
"The plane came directly down, plummeted directly into the roof," said Nochunk. "Everybody was running around, nobody knew what was going on, everyone was scared. The only thing I’m thinking is this plane going to explode."
Jeffrey Marchessault said he witnessed the final moments before the crash.
"At first it looked like it was a stunt. I heard it crash," he recalled.
The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine a likely cause for the crash, according to officials.
Skies were partly cloudy with calm winds and a 10-mile visibility at the time of the crash, meteorologist Michael Page said.
In the meantime, Newburyport neighbors of Lavender said it had taken him all summer to build his plane, which they say he constructed in his own yard.
"He just wanted to do it. He was determined he was going to do it," said neighbor Erford Fowler. "Something he had a passion for."
C/n / msn: 1589
Fatalities: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 1
Other fatalities: 0
Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: Essex County, Methuen, MA - United States of America
Destination airport: Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWM)
The aircraft crashed through the roof of a residential building in Methuen, Massachusetts. The airplane, an experimental Lavender built Sonex, sustained substantial damage and the sole pilot onboard received fatal injuries.
Here is what the dead old man, Al Lavender wrote one year ago regarding his sonex plane:
First Flight: May 25th, 2016
Engine: Jabiru 3300
Builder: Alan Lavender
Current Owner: Alan Lavender
Location: Newburyport, MA United States (Map)
EAA Technical Counselor: No
EAA Flight Advisor: No
On May 25, I took my Sonex N315AL, Jabiru 3300 powered, (SN# 1589), tail wheel, dual stick up for its first flight. After 3 yrs. 8 1/2 mo. it was great to finally be in the air. Everything worked great except for the EGT’s going in the red. I thank Sonex for designing such a great plane.
I want to thank my wife, son Roy, Mike Smith, Dana Thurston, Dan Raycroft, Bill Waters, Brian Lloyd, Tech Advisor Bob DiMeo and all the members of EAA Chapter 106 for all their help, advice and encouragement.
May every Sonex builder have the support from people such as these. Al Lavender