Cape Air crash claims the life of a Vineyard pilot
Despite rainy weather conditions Friday evening, the short hop from Martha's Vineyard to Boston would have been routine for Cape Air pilot David D. Willey, an experienced pilot who had flown in and out of airports around the world in far more difficult circumstances.
But shortly after its 8:05 pm takeoff from Martha's Vineyard Airport, the Cape Air twin engine Cessna 402 aircraft with no passengers on board piloted by Mr. Willey, 61, of Tisbury crashed into the woods opposite Nip-N-Tuck Farm on State Road in West Tisbury. Mr. Willey died in the crash.
Mr. Willey was on a repositioning flight to Boston's Logan Airport, where he was scheduled to pick up passengers for a return flight to the Vineyard later that night.
The plane narrowly missed one house on Nip and Tuck Lane, clipped the roof of another, and ploughed a trench through the woods before coming to rest against a tree. Aircraft parts were scattered widely around the area.
Investigators from The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived on Martha's Vineyard Saturday to begin an investigation into the cause of the crash. A preliminary report is expected next week, but a final report on a probable cause will likely not be available for months.
Jackie Willey, Mr. Willey's wife, works as a nurse in the office of pediatrician Michael Goldfein and for the Vineyard Nursing Association. The couple has three children.
Tuesday afternoon, family and friends gathered to celebrate Mr. Willey's life at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury (an obituary appears on Page 18 in the Calendar).
Michelle Haynes, Cape Air director of communications, said the twin engine Cessna 402 aircraft departed Martha's Vineyard at 8:05 pm. Shortly after takeoff from runway 33, the plane went down about two and a half miles from the airport, she said. The weather was variable, with light to heavy rain and moderate winds at the time of the accident.
Occupants of the house that the Cessna clipped had just finished eating dinner on their deck. They immediately called 911.
State Police and police, fire, and emergency personnel from West Tisbury and Chilmark responded to the scene.
Photo by David Curran
Saturday morning, West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey told The Martha's Vineyard Times that no one on the ground was injured, and there was no fire.
Saturday morning, a Chilmark police officer stood at the entrance to the crash site while police waited for a team from The NTSB to arrive.
Jesse Sonneborn, at 5 Nip and Tuck Lane, heard the noise of the crash and ran out of his house to see what had happened. Parts of the plane were strewn across his deck and lawn, he said, and the plane was in his woods. He called 911.
The plane was completely demolished. "It was totally wrapped around a tree, completely mangled," said Mr. Sonneborn.
Photo courtesy of Cape Air
Reflecting on the Mr. Willey's ability to miss both houses in the final moments before the plane crashed Mr. Sonneborn said, "It looks as if he did everything he could to avoid those houses. As far as I'm concerned, he was a hero."
The plane struck the roof of the neighboring house at 15 Nip and Tuck Lane, owned by Michael L. Mayhew and rented by Janice Perrin.
Ms. Perrin, a guidance counselor at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, said she thought at first the sound was coming from a drunk driver speeding through the woods. Then the plane struck. "All of a sudden there were two super loud bangs," said Ms. Perrin. "And then we called 911. Somebody else went outside to see what it was, and they screamed, 'It's a plane.' So I communicated that to 911."
Ms. Perrin said it is fortunate that the plane only clipped the house, and no one on the ground was injured. "We were eating dinner outside, not even five minutes before it happened," she said.