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3 Die in Jet Crash in Pa. Mountains

December 13, 1999

GOULDSBORO, Pa. (AP) _ A small private jet exploded when it nose-dived into the ground near a trailer park in the Pocono mountains. All three people aboard, including optical inventor and industrialist Peter La Haye Sr., were killed.

The Westwind 24 aircraft, a 12-seat, twin-engine turbo jet, went down Sunday afternoon near Gouldsboro, about 90 miles north of Philadelphia, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathryn Creedy said.

``It left a crater impression because the descent was pretty much perpendicular to the ground,″ said Jerry Gaughan, Lackawanna County’s director of emergency services.

Federal investigators had not released the victims’ names this morning, but La Haye’s wife, Sandra, told The Seattle Times her husband had died in the crash.

The other two were a pilot and co-pilot believed to be from the Seattle area, the newspaper said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Stephen Demko said today that authorities have recovered a cockpit voice recorder from the jet. But the aircraft was not equipped with a flight data recorder that might have further aided the investigation, he said.

La Haye Sr., owner of La Haye Laboratories and Neoptx in Redmond, Wash., lived in Medina, Wash., a lakeside suburb that also includes the $53.4 million home of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

He produced implantable lenses for cataract patients, a diet supplement designed to prevent degenerative eye disorders and stick-on reading lenses for sunglasses.

La Haye, in his 50s, was on the board of directors for Orbis International, which operates a DC-10 ``flying eye hospital″ to combat blindness worldwide and has been credited with saving or restoring the sight of nearly 22,000 people.

Messages left today by The Associated Press at La Haye’s two companies were not immediately returned.

Creedy said the plane left King County International Airport in Seattle en route to Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey.

It crashed in woods near a small mobile home park, said Joseph Foley, communications officer for the state police in Dunmore.

No one on the ground was reported injured but debris was scattered throughout the area.

Harry Lloyd and his 15-year-old son, Tim, said they saw the plane fly right over them and then veer off, dip down and pull back up, doing a barrel roll.

The elder Lloyd said there was a ``muffled boom″ when the plane started shooting upward. When the plane got back up to its highest point, it came down at an extremely sharp angle, they said.

Winds were light and visibility was good _ about 10 miles _ at the time of the crash, which happened about 10 minutes after sunset, said National Weather Service meteorologist Barry Lambert.

``There was no indication of problems prior to the loss on radar,″ Creedy said.

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