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Sources say doctor a victim in plane crash near University Park Airport

NTSB talks about the investigation of the fatal plane crash at University Park Airport

Senior air safety investigator with the NTSB Brian Rayner discusses the investigation he is leading into the fatal crash at University Park Airport.
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Senior air safety investigator with the NTSB Brian Rayner discusses the investigation he is leading into the fatal crash at University Park Airport.

A southwest Pennsylvania doctor was one of those killed in Thursday’s University Park Airport plane crash, sources say.

Nittany Eye Associates confirmed that the plane was transporting a doctor who was scheduled to perform Lasik eye surgery in their Windmere office. That office was closed Thursday because of the incident.

One of the victims was confirmed by the company to be Dr. Robert Arffa, a corneal surgeon specializing in refractive Lasik vision correction.

“He was renowned in his field,” said a Nittany representative. “He will be greatly missed.”

Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers confirmed two fatalities in the crash. Asked for confirmation of the information from Arffa’s colleagues, he said that he would not formally identify the victims yet.

Late Thursday, Sayers identified the pilot as Gary Orner, of White Oak. He said his office was waiting for dental records for the passenger, who is expected to be identified Friday.

Arffa’s office in Bridgeville was accepting calls. While an employee said they had been informed about the crash, she declined to issue a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed earlier that the plane was a Piper craft flying out of Washington County Airport. U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office confirmed the tail number as N3591P.

That plane belongs to Aero National Inc., based in Washington. The FAA confirmed that the plane departed Washington County Airport Thursday morning en route to University Park Airport.

The plane makes a monthly journey between Washington and University Park, according to Flight Aware, an online service that tracks flights nationwide. Nittany Eye Associates said Arffa made the monthly journey to provide the surgery, the only doctor in the county to do that kind of operation.

Aero National is an air ambulance company that has served the medical community since 1969, according to its website.

The company’s fleet information lists the Piper as one of five planes in use.

Aero National has not returned calls about the flight or the pilot.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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