Pilot Crashes at Connellsville Airport (PA)

A New York pilot may have suffered a stroke Tuesday before he lost control of his single-engine plane after landing and hit a parked truck at the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport, authorities said.

Chester J. Richer, 72, of Dundee, landed shortly before noon at the Dunbar Township airport, but then apparently lost control and his plane traveled from the runway onto the ramp area where transient planes are parked.

The plane struck an unoccupied Ford pickup truck used for airport operations, which was parked in front of the fixed-base operator office.

Airport Manager Sam Cortis said no one was in the office at the time of the accident, and there were no other injuries reported.

Jim Snyder, a firefighter for Monarch Volunteer Fire Department, said the truck spilled a few gallons of regular fuel, and the plane spilled approximately 50 gallons of aviation fuel, which Snyder said is more volatile than regular fuel.

Snyder said the pilot may have suffered a stroke upon landing or after landing.

The pilot had to be extricated from the plane, Snyder said. Firefighters used foam and an oil-absorbent fabric to soak up the fuel.

Richer was flown by emergency medical helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was listed in critical condition last night.

The plane is a 1968 Dever Stits Playmate SA11A, a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft, and is owned by Richer, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane is classified as experimental, or amateur-built.

It could not be determined what Richer's flight plan was because officials from Dundee Flying Club Airport could not be reached for comment.

Cortis said he is not familiar with the airplane or the pilot. He didn't know whether the pilot intended to land at the airport or made an emergency landing.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate.

The last accident at the Connellsville facility was in August 2003, when a student pilot suffered minor injuries in a fiery crash when a plane nose-dived after take-off.

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