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 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 from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil residing in Nobleboro; and William “B.J.” Hannigan of 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 accident occurred when the single-engine plane that the three were riding in struck a pickup truck on the runway during takeoff. The Cessna 172 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, 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 results from DNA testing to officially confirm the identities of the victims aren’t expected until Wednesday. An ongoing investigation by the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and the National Transportation Safety Board is expected.
Hannigan had recently received his pilot’s license, according to the BDN.
“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.”
Interfraternity Council public relations representative Jacky Deng said they will be meeting on Monday to figure out how to handle the tragic situation with Lambda Chi Alpha. Deng said he heard that it was the three fraternity members before calling Dana to confirm.
“It was tragic when I first found out, personally,” Deng said. “When I saw a couple of the Lambda brothers [Saturday] night I just expressed my concerns on behalf of [my fraternity] Kappa Delta Phi.”
Deng spoke to a member of Lambda Chi Alpha who said that Saturday “had been a long day for them.” This is the first time the IFC has had to deal with death since Deng has been associated with the council.
“I’m sure when we discuss it on [Monday], it will be a heavy discussion,” Deng said.
Any students affected by this event who would like the opportunity to talk to someone can contact the UMaine Counseling Center at 581-1392. Faculty and staff with similar concerns can contact the Employee Assistance Program at 581-4014.