Local police have concluded there was “no foul play” involved in the tragic death of Dr. Chaim Weiss Z”L, the pilot who crashed near the William H. Morse airport Sunday. Federal investigators, meanwhile, began their investigation Tuesday, with the aim of determining why the plane went down.
Bennington Police Chief Richard Gauthier said local investigators have determined that Dr. Weiss, 58, of Spring Valley, N.Y., likely died as a result of the crash. Weiss’ body did not undergo an autopsy.
Police are waiting for some test results before determining a cause of death and officially closing the investigation, he said.
Weiss’ four-seat Cessna 172 crashed into Whipstock Hill, less than two miles from the airport, around 7 p.m. Sunday. Search teams on foot and a New York State Police helicopter were unable to locate the wreckage that night. Nearby residents looking for the crash site found it Monday morning and reported to police that Weiss was dead.
Weiss took off from the Greenwood Lake Airport in Milford, N.J., Sunday and was expected to make a two-hour flight around that area. Police said family members were puzzled as to why Weiss ended up in Bennington. Police said witnesses accounts of the plane’s travel indicate he was circling the airport the wrong way and attempted to land on the wrong side of the runway.
That will be a focus of the federal investigation, however.
National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said an investigator was at the site Tuesday to the official investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration, which had an official at the scene after the wreckage was located Monday, said the NTSB would be the lead investigative agency.
According to Holloway, investigators will likely spend two to three days documenting the wreckage, requesting and reviewing radar data from Albany (N.Y.) International Airport, speaking to witnesses and reviewing weather reports.
A preliminary report will be issued in about two weeks. The report will not include a stated cause.
A final report, which could include a cause, could take 12 to 18 months, Holloway said.
Police said Weiss was an experienced pilot and had been flying since 1981. However, he was “absolutely unfamiliar” with the layout of the airport and the surrounding terrain, Gauthier said.
The plane, tail number N55479, is registered to Sky Training, LLC, in West Milford, N.J. A woman at the company who answered the phone Monday said the company would have no comment about the crash.
Weiss was a psychologist with the Kiryas Joel School District in Orange County, N.Y., according to reports.
(Source: Bennington Banner / Eli Rowe / YWN-32)