Minor fuel spill at fatal crash site being addressed

There is little evidence left of the plane crash in the Benner Township woods a mile from the University Park Airport.

The wooded land on Penn State-owned ground has no fuselage or wheels or engines, just a hole in the trees where the Piper Navajo cut its way through on June 16.

There are a few other items, though. Namely, there are a few pieces of plastic sheeting weighted down over spots on the ground. The evidence of the plane crash is beneath them in the form of fuel.

“Centre County 911 has automatic Hazmat dispatch procedures for aircraft emergencies,” said Penn State spokeswoman Heather Robbins. “When they arrived on scene this past Thursday, the crash site was extensive and there were no obvious large fuel releases due to the amount of damage and fire.”

The scene took longer to clean up than the crash just eight days before. That minor crash had no injuries. The second crash claimed the lives of two Pittsburgh-area men, pilot Gary Orner, 60, and corneal surgeon Robert Arffa, 62.

The crash site became the investigation scene for the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

“After the FAA and NTSB departed, Penn State Office of the Physical Plant personnel walked the site of the crash to scan for any evidence of fuel release,” said Robbins.

“Six potential small, coffee-can size areas were discovered,” she said. “They were covered and will be excavated to ensure there is no residual contamination. After the material is excavated, soil testing will take place to ensure mitigation. Penn State is coordinating environmental remediation efforts in conjunction with the company insuring the plane.”

The investigation continues. The NTSB said that a preliminary report should be available within a week to ten days. A report has still not been released on the June 8 crash.

A final report can take a year or more.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce