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Neighbors Open Homes, Hearts After Fiery Plane Crash

June 27, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ People in borrowed clothes wandered Lonsdale Street on Friday, planning to rebuild the close-knit neighborhood shaken from its sleep by a fiery airplane crash that killed the pilot and injured three residents.

John White, chief of operations for the city fire department, called it ″miraculous″ that about 15 others who fled their homes escaped injury.

Three houses in the middle-class Dorchester section of the city were destroyed, along with six cars and a van, and four homes were damaged in the fire ignited by the crash and explosion of the plane about 1:30 a.m.

″I ran down the street. It was blazing all over the place ... I just seen things flying. There were pieces all over the place,″ said Glenn Austin, 25, who saw the crash. ″This one (house) just burst into flames. It just exploded. I started seeing cars explode.″

Within seconds of the explosion, people poured out of their houses and tried to help their neighbors.

″It was just flame everywhere,″ said Thomas Byrnes, 28, who said he was awakened by neighbors yelling at him to get out of his house. ″It was instant flame, all flame.″

Byrnes said the trauma of losing his home was tempered by the generosity of the neighbors, including one who opened her home to Byrnes and 10 other displaced residents.

As the buildings smoldered, St. Mark’s Church, a nearby Roman Catholic church, was laying plans to establish a fund for the victims to rebuild their homes.

″I feel real sad for these people. But you can always rebuild,″ said Stephen Cidlevich, 30, whose nearby house escaped damage.

Cidlevich, an aide to Democratic state Rep. James Brett, whose district includes the neighborhood, was passing out information Friday about how people could made donations to a bank fund set up by St. Mark’s.

″We’ll help them rebuild,″ he said. ″We’re all going to try.″

George Knauber, whose home was destroyed, said he’ll do all he can to stay on Lonsdale Street. ″I’ve lived here 28 years. We’re gonna rebuild, I hope. It’s a great neighborhood.″

Federal Aviation Administration officials said the twin-engine Piper Seneca with only the pilot on board was carrying bank documents and other financial papers from Teterboro, N.J. to Logan International Airport. They said there was no indication of trouble as it approached Logan.

The pilot was identified as Peter Covich, 21, of Nashua, N.H. His mother, Mary Pucino of Auburn, N.Y., said Covich had worked for Cash Air Inc. of Lawrence since 1984.

FAA spokesman Michael Ciccarelli said the pilot was making an instrument approach to Logan. About 15 seconds after checking in with the airport tower at the five-mile mark over Milton, the pilot banked to the left and off the instrument approach, he said.

He said there was no indication from the pilot that anything was wrong and said the pilot’s last words were, ″I am over the outer marker.″

Austin said he was going to a store when he heard the engine of a plane make a loud hissing noise, and then stop.

The plane’s engine re-started, then stopped again and the plane came down, hit one 2 1/2 -story house and seemed to bounce into the house next door, Austin said. ″I saw it stick right into that house.″

Injured were Kathleen Tully, 41, who was upgraded from critical to stable condition at Boston City Hospital with first- and second-degree burns on her face, chest and arms; Tully’s mother, Katherine Tully, 80, in stable condition at Carney Hospital in Boston; and Estelle Dion, 56, in good condition at Boston City Hospital with first- and second-degree burns on her back and hands.

Cathy Costello’s parents were among the victims. When they came to stay in her five-room house up the street, so did nine other people.

The 25-year-old dental assistant said she opened her door without a thought. ″We’re like family,″ Mrs. Costello said. ″We’ve known each other for the longest time.″

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