NTSB Releases Preliminary Report In Cattaraugus County Plane Crash

Two witnesses reported seeing a Cessna 177B banking left moments before the April 7 crash in Cattaraugus County that killed a passenger and seriously injured the pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday released its preliminary report regarding the crash at Great Valley Airport, located north of Salamanca. A pilot based at the airport described the weather as “an absolute perfect day to fly.”

William H. Mandelare, 80, and Raymond E. Groetsch, 72, had flown into the airport from Brockport where the pair lived earlier in the day to have lunch with another pilot and were leaving when the crash occurred.

According to the preliminary report, a witness said the plane — owned by the pilot — bounced a couple of times during takeoff then climbed to about 20 feet off the ground before banking left and impacting the ground.

Another witness told investigators he saw the plane in a 90-degree bank just prior to the crash. “He told a co-worker that he was concerned about the airplane, so he got in his truck and drove to the airport,” the report states. “When he arrived, he saw that the airplane had crashed and was engulfed in flames.”

Mandelare died as a result of the crash while Groetsch suffered serious injuries.

A woman who lives adjacent to the runway has a full view of the runway and witnessed the crash. She reported to investigators that after taking off and banking left, the plane’s left wing impacted the ground where it “crumbled” and then the plane “collapsed,” the report states.

“She said that she watches airplanes take off and land all the time, and by the time they come by her home, they typically are already airborne. She said that she did not see or hear anything unusual with the airplane or engine prior to the accident, except that it was ‘low’ and ‘late’ taking off. As the witness was on the phone with 911, she observed black smoke coming from the wreckage.”

The NTSB said ground scars at the accident site and damage to the plane were consistent with the Cessna impacting terrain in a left-wing-low, nose-down flight attitude. The airplane came to rest about 2,250 feet down and about 50 feet left of the approach end of the runway.

All major components of the plane were located at the accident site.

“Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no evidence of preaccident mechanical malfunctions or anomalies that would have precluded normal operation,” the NTSB said in its report.


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