METHUEN (CBS) – Salvage crews were on scene in Methuen removing the charred wreckage of a small airplane that crashed into a condo building Wednesday afternoon.
It was a delicate operation as the plane was moved inch by inch from a third floor ceiling.
The tragedy of what unfolded has witnesses shaken watching as crews loaded the aircraft onto a waiting flatbed.
“It’s very sad. It’s someone’s final resting place and they deserve a moment of silence,” said Red Cross volunteer Ellen Sullivan.
Methuen Police released video inside the impacted unit of the plane in a nosedive position held only by construction materials. Killed in the accident was former Newburyport Mayor Alan Lavender who was heading to runway four at Lawrence Municipal Airport just a half mile away. He was flying the experimental aircraft he built himself.
Robert Nochnuk was sitting in a unit just 30 feet below impact. “I won’t forget that sound,” he said. “The shock is still there, it will take a few more days to sink in that I could have been gone.”
Now the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the plane and try to determine how it happened. “There are three things we’ll look at, the man, the machine and the environment,” said NTSB investigator Aaron McCarter.
Police released some 911 calls they received from residents saying there was an explosion through the roof. Nancy Downey returned to her apartment in the same building today to gather some belongings after leaving quickly yesterday. “You just look at it and it keeps going on, I just have to get away,” she said.
The plane is being moved to a secure facility for examination. A preliminary report could be released next week, with a final report on the cause not likely for 18 months.
By Thursday night, crews covered the hole in the roof and broken windows with plywood.
JoAnne Vietor has called Pride’s Crossing home for 18 years. She marveled at the recovery.
“At least it’s (the plane) out and we are doing recovery,” said Vietor. “It’s nice to see Methuen and the whole community banding together to help everyone out.”
Alan Lavender who built and piloted the plane died in the crash. His family released a statement in part:
“On behalf of our entire family, we wish to express our deepest gratitude for the outpouring of support we have received from our friends and neighbors in Newburyport since the tragic loss of our believed Al on Tuesday.
Al dedicated his life to his community. Al and his wife Betty have been active for years as board members with the Newburyport Public Library. A lifelong student, Al believed strongly in the value of education.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports