A plane crash, riots and more, take a look back at Centre County’s top stories in 2016

A plane approaching University Park Airport crashed into a wooded area on June 16, killing two people.
A plane approaching University Park Airport crashed into a wooded area on June 16, killing two people.

It’s that time again.

Every year, as the calendar starts to wind down, we look back over the past year and recall its highs and lows.

So let’s take a glance back at the Centre Daily Times’ top stories of 2016.

For the next week, we will look at the stories that made a difference and the stories that made people take note in court, in county and local government, in our school districts, at Penn State, in video and online and in photos.

But today, we look at the ones that hit us overall.

Some stories mirrored national trends.

The opioid crisis

Heroin has been a growing story for several years. In 2016, it hit several sharp blows, like the dumping of the body of overdose victim Corinne Pena in Ferguson Township in February and the finding of the body of a man who overdosed in a Megabus bathroom when it stopped in Patton Township.

While heroin and opioids were on the minds of Gov. Tom Wolf and President Barack Obama, it was also being addressed closer to home. State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, made it a priority.

At the CDT, we saw it being addressed in different ways by different agencies, organizations and the people affected by the drug, and followed it in a weeklong series.

Many of those agencies also participated in a series of community town hall meetings on the issue.

Election 2016

Locally, the 2016 election didn’t change much. State representatives didn’t change. Neither did our congressman nor our senator, although Pat Toomey’s race with challenger Katie McGinty did come down to the wire.

But Pennsylvania was placed in the unusual position of mattering when it came to the 2016 primary, something that has seldom happened in the Keystone State, where nominees for the presidential race are often cemented long before those ballots are cast in our relatively late election. Pennsylvania went for Donald Trump over his slate of opponents and Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

In November, the perennial swing state with blue bookends in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia surrounding a largely red rural electorate went down to the wire and in the end, went for Trump.

But in Centre County, the very Democratic Penn State campus and surrounding Centre Region went for Clinton by about 2,000 votes over the more Republican areas.


Car crashes always draw attention, on the road or in the news. Plane crashes draw even more.

They seldom happen in Centre County.

In 2016, plane crashes happened twice, eight days apart.

The first on June 8 was simple and straightforward. Crews responded, flights were delayed briefly and no one was seriously hurt.

The story was different on June 16, when eye surgeon Robert Arffa died along with pilot Gary Orner. The two were flying in to University Park Airport from Washington County Airport. Arffa was scheduled to perform Lasik eye surgery that day, something he routinely came to Centre County to do.

A preliminary investigation was released about a week later but a final report of the crash could take up to a year.

Penn State riots

The Nittany Lions had a great football season in 2016.

The fans had a couple of problems, however.

The first came in October when excitement over the thrilling last-minute victory over Ohio State sent people, many of them students, spilling into downtown State College with what some called a celebration. Police and prosecutors, however, called it a riot.

Damage was more than $18,000 and 13 people were charged with crimes.

Two months later, it happened again when Penn State won the Big Ten Championship on Dec. 3.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce