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Breaking News

Mark Simonson

March 17, 2014

Two fatal airplane crashes stunned area in March 1984


Two local men were arrested and jailed for trespassing on the site of the crash, allegedly found scavenging through the wreckage. State police later took the marijuana and burned it on the grounds of the Troop C barracks near Sidney.

Weather conditions and poor aircraft handling were probable causes of the accident, later reported by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A state trooper was still standing watch on this crash site when another tragedy was unfolding, on Wednesday, March 21, around 6:40 p.m.

Trooper D.E. Rodriquez watched a Kar-San Realty Piper Navajo airplane make its last approach pattern to the Oneonta Municipal Airport and moments later heard the crash that killed all five people on board. Rodriquez saw the plane fly over during winds and a hard rain. The group was returning from a business trip in Virginia and Florida.

State police and civilians began a search, and the crash site was located around 1:40 a.m. Thursday in a wooded area in the town of Laurens about a half mile northeast of the airport runway.

Identified were Oneonta residents Joseph P. Molinari, 43, Darryl Place, 33 and John Lyall, 22, employees of Kar-San Realty. Wolfgang Hutzel, 48, the pilot, and wife Marcia, 45, were from Wells Bridge.

The families and community mourned over their loved ones. For Molinari, a city alderman, Mayor James Lettis ordered a 30-day period of mourning with black bunting to be draped on City Hall and the Public Safety Building. The town of Oneonta also lowered its flags to half-staff in tribute to Molinari and others who perished in the crash. More than 800 attended Molinari’s funeral at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Oneonta.

“Fuel starvation” after the plane lost engine power, and pilot errors, were determined by the NTSB as probable causes of the crash.

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Mark Simonson

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