Three members of the University of Maine community were killed in a plane crash Friday afternoon at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head.
All three were members of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and, according to members of the fraternity, the three were David Cheney, 22, of Beverly, Mass., Marcelo Rugini, 24, who was a foreign exchange student residing in Nobleboro and was from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil and William “B.J.” Hannigan, from South Portland, who graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.
“Friday night, the University of Maine community lost three outstanding young men,” said University of Maine President Paul W. Ferguson in a press release. “In their leadership and involvement in the UMaine community, they touched the lives of students, faculty and staff. At this difficult time, our thoughts are with their families and friends, near and far.”
According to the Bangor Daily News, the single-engine plane Cessna 172 that the three were riding in struck a pickup truck on the runway during takeoff. The plane crashed on the runway, caught fire and continued into the woods about 300 yards.
The article goes on to say that the pickup truck was authorized to be on the airport at that time. The driver of the truck was Stephen Turner, 62, of Camden, a licensed pilot, who was uninjured when the small plane struck his 1994 GMC Sonoma.
“Turner is a licensed pilot that works out of the airport and was crossing the runway at that time,” the Knox County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the press release. “Turner had just assisted in putting a plane away in a hangar across from the terminal. This was routine practice that occurs daily.”
The Knox County Sheriff’s Department is leading the investigation, and says DNA testing to officially confirm the identities of the victims aren’t expected until Wednesday.
An ongoing investigation is expected by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the National Transportation Safety Board.
“UMaine’s Greek and international student communities are mourning the loss of three of their own, but they are not alone in their grief,” said Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students in a press release. “Losing these three young men — David, Marcelo and B.J. — is a loss for the entire UMaine community and the many people — including faculty and staff — whose lives they touched. They brought great light and energy to our campus, and we will miss them. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.”
Hannigan had recently received his pilot’s license, according to the BDN.
Any students affected by this event and would like the opportunity to talk to someone can contact UMaine Counseling Center, 581-1392. Faculty and staff with similar concerns, contact the Employee Assistance Prorgram, 581-4014