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Plane crash kills two after pilot overcome by fumes

January 18, 1997

ALTON, N.H. (AP) _ A woman forced to take control of a small plane after her pilot son passed out from carbon monoxide apparently was also overcome as the plane passed over three states. The plane crashed and both died.

The two-hour drama began in Connecticut and continued in the skies over Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Air traffic controllers coached the increasingly groggy passenger, and a private pilot spotted the plane, established radio contract and tried to give her instructions.

``She talked to us quite a long time,″ pilot Harold Hamre told the Concord Monitor. ``It looked really good for a while and everybody felt good. Then she started complaining about being tired.″

The passenger was also a licensed pilot, said Alton Police Sgt. Tracy Shattuck. State officials said Hamre followed the plane from Connecticut to New Hampshire.

``It’s kind of sad,″ Hamre said. ``We weren’t able to help her come down to a safe landing.″

The blue and white plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee flying from Farmingdale, N.Y., to Saranac Lake, N.Y., clipped the treetops and crashed near Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire. Rescuers searching through the dense woods found the seats and bodies thrown from the plane.

``There was no doubt there were no survivors,″ said Jerry DeLemus, one of the first rescuers to reach the wreckage.

The first word of trouble came at 11:30 a.m. when Sikorsky Airport in Stratford, Conn., received an emergency alarm that the plane was about 10 miles from the field with an unconscious pilot and female passenger with no experience at the controls. It was unclear who sent the message.

``David, David, David! Wake up!″ the voice of a frightened woman was heard saying over the radio frequency used by air traffic controllers in Westbury, N.Y., who had been in routine contact with the pilot, The New York Times report in Saturday’s editions.

Responding to questions, the woman said the pilot had briefly regained consciousness, vomited and passed out again, the newspaper reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was registered to David Riach of Babylon, N.Y., and an agency official said he was the pilot. The passenger was his mother, Dorothy Riach, 71, of Morristown, N.J., the Concord Monitor reported.

Air traffic controllers had tried to coach the passenger, who was initially reported to be a teen-age girl, into landing the plane. Controllers said she was becoming lethargic, possibly from fumes that had affected the pilot, said Michael O’Donnell, an official at Sikorsky.

But controllers in Connecticut were unable to re-establish contact. Neither Sikorsky nor Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., received any response from the plane as it headed north.

A National Guard helicopter tried in vain to catch up to the plane.

``We were trying to intercept and do something,″ said Connecticut National Guard Maj. Mark Rousseau. ``It was a hopeless situation as far as trying to catch it.″

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