NEWCOMB - Two men were confirmed dead on Tuesday as a result of a plane crash that occurred at the base of 4,609-foot-high Santanoni Peak in Newcomb on Sunday, Nov. 15.
The wreckage of the Piper Cherokee 140 single engine aircraft carrying its owner Dan Wills, 48 of North Bangor and fellow pilot Ronald Rouselle, 66 of Malone was recovered by a search party Tuesday afternoon by the New York State Police Aviation and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Aviation.
Police said the exhaustive search for the plane began by helicopter late Monday evening and continued through the night.
The flight was en route from Saratoga to Malone and left the Saratoga Springs Airport on Sunday afternoon and never arrived at its destination at the Malone-Dufort Airport.
It was reported missing on Monday afternoon after Wills never showed up for another scheduled flight. Wills logged at least 15,000 hours in the air during his 20 years of flying.
"It's not like Dan to miss appointments," said Jeff Kearney, a pilot and family friend. "He was not answering his cell phone, and we couldn't find him. About 3 o'clock, we called the State Police."
An investigation conducted by the New York State Police, working with the Federal Aviation Administration, determined that the aircraft was last at 4,200 feet in elevation and was headed toward terrain at 4,600 feet in elevation near the Tahawus mining area near the Santanoni Mountain Range.
"The problem is, with that area, there is a valley on the right and the mountains on the left," said Kearney. "It's not unusual for the airport to lose radio contact over the mountains when they are flying at that altitude anyway."
"There was no radio contact whatsoever that he was in any kind of trouble," said Malone-Dufort Airport Manager Mark Besio.
Besio said the plane was in "excellent running condition" and Wills was very familiar with flying in the area.
"Danny's flew that route so many times that there would be no chance of him being too low because he knows that like the back of his hands," Besio said. "He's done that flight a lot, as far as I know."
"He's basically the driving force of aviation in this entire area," Besio said. "I wouldn't even want to know how many students he's taught."