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Centre County coroner announces cause of plane crash deaths

Pilot Gary Orner, 60, of White Oak, and eye surgeon Robert Arffa, 62, of Pittsburgh, died in a plane crash near State College in mid-June. Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers on Thursday released information about the cause of death.
Pilot Gary Orner, 60, of White Oak, and eye surgeon Robert Arffa, 62, of Pittsburgh, died in a plane crash near State College in mid-June. Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers on Thursday released information about the cause of death. Centre Daily Times, file

Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers on Thursday released information about the deaths of two men who died June 16 in a plane crash near University Park Airport.

Pilot Gary Orner, 60, of White Oak, and ophthalmological surgeon Robert Arffa, 62, of Pittsburgh, died “as a result of thermal injuries sustained” in the fiery crash, Sayers said in a release. He also revealed that there were no drugs or alcohol in either man’s system at the time of the crash, according to toxicology testing.

The plane went down at about 8:45 a.m. The tower could see smoke coming from the craft when it was in the air, Penn State spokeswoman Heather Robbins said in June.

The plane traveled round-trip to UPA every month when Arffa, a surgeon who had won awards for the videos he made demonstrating techniques, visited State College to operate on patients.

Orner flew planes for several decades after studying at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in the 1970s.

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