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March 17, 2014

Two fatal airplane crashes stunned area in March 1984

March 1984 will probably always be remembered by investigators of Oneonta airplane crashes, and the community in general, as tragically unforgettable. In less than one week that month, there were two crashes that claimed the lives of seven people, five of them local residents.

“A twin engine cargo plane of World War II vintage, carrying a 3,500-pound cargo of marijuana with an estimated value of more than $2.4 million, crashed late Friday night in a wooded area about one mile northeast of the Oneonta Municipal Airport, killing two men aboard,” it was reported on Monday, March 19, 1984 in The Daily Star.

Pilot Stanley Louis Booker, 48, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., and passenger Gordon A. Douglas, 47, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were identified after the wreckage was discovered Saturday morning by a visitor to a nearby resident. State police investigators weren’t certain whether the plane was trying to land at the airport, but believed it was.

Approximately 35 bales of marijuana, wrapped in red, blue and white canvas bags, weighing 50 to 100 pounds each, were thrown clear of the airplane, while some of the contents burned in the wreckage.

There had been reports that this plane had been under surveillance by federal authorities in recent days, the flight having originated from Anniston, Ala.

It appeared to investigators the plane came down almost vertically, as the wreckage was confined to a relatively small area.

By Tuesday, March 20, it was reported that Booker was “one of the foremost drug smugglers we are aware of in this country,” according to a federal narcotics official, Special Agent David Taketa of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“He’s known to have brought in planeloads of marijuana from Mexico. We seized two of them coming into the southwest from there. He wasn’t aboard,” Taketa said. There was documentation that Booker had owned over 200 airplanes, and information the DEA had on him dated back to the early 1970s. Authorities said they had “nothing” on Douglas until this crash.

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