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Pilot Killed In Fitchburg Plane Crash

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A plane went off the runway at Fitchburg Airport and landed in the Nashua River. (credit: CBS)

A plane went off the runway at Fitchburg Airport and landed in the Nashua River. (credit: CBS)

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FITCHBURG (CBS) – Investigators appear to be focusing on mechanical failure as the cause of a deadly plane crash in Fitchburg.

A replica World War II Navy fighter plane crashed into the Nashua River in Fitchburg Saturday afternoon, killing the pilot, 73-year-old Melville “Reese” Dill Jr., of Weston.

Dill and a passenger took off from Hanscom Field in Bedford, but reported engine trouble.

The plane crashed trying to land at Fitchburg-Leominster Airport and ended up upside down in the Nashua River.

Dill was trapped inside. Rescuers tried desperately to free him, but he died.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Smith reports from the scene

The passenger on board survived. His father gave the flight to him and his two brothers as a gift. The brothers were taking turns as passengers.

But when Don Atkinson watched his son Larry’s flight come in, he knew there was trouble.

“I saw the plane come in, make its usual approach and then it just dropped and I saw a splash. I couldn’t believe it. I said ‘I think the plane just crashed.’ (I) ran down, my son had gotten out of the plane already,” he told WBZ-TV


WBZ Radio’s Doug Cope talks to Don Atkinson

Three young men also saw the crash and ran to get help.


WBZ Radio’s Art Cohen talks to Jim Peters of the FAA

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

Raw video of scene

This was the second aircraft to crash in central Massachusetts Saturday.

Two men were hurt when their ultralight crashed in Stow.

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