Police in Falmouth, Massachusetts have identified the three people involved in a plane crash over the weekend that killed a flight instructor and severely injured two other people.
The Cirrus SR22 plane left Tweed-New Haven Airport on Saturday morning and crashed while attempting to land at Falmouth Airpark in Massachusetts around 11 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Robinson Aviation flight instructor Aaron Mentkowski, 23, of Wallingford, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
Student Diane Palmeri, 54, Chief Administrative Officer and an associate dean at Yale’s School of Management, and her husband, Albert Rossini, 55, both of Guilford, were transported to Boston area hospitals to be treated for life-threatening injuries.
“It is with heavy and sadden[ed] hearts that we acknowledge the death of Aaron Mentkowski,” Robinson Aviation posted on its Facebook page. “We will be setting up a Memorial Fund in Aaron’s name with Angel Flight. Aaron was very passionate about this organization.”
A witness at the scene of the crash described a “total ball of fire.”
The impact sparked a fire in a wooded area, narrowly missing nearby homes. According to the FAA, Mentkowski was trapped inside the downed plane and died upon impact.
“This is a nice area at the air park, with homes around it, and we were fortunate it did not land in one of the houses,” said Mark Sullivan, the acting Fire Chief at the Falmouth Fire Dept.
The single-engine plane was registered to Bobo Aviation LLC in Guilford, Conn., which as registered with the Secretary of the State’s Office in March, according to the state’s online corporate database.
Rossini is listed as the company’s agent.
The plane’s tail number indicated it was registered to Palmeri.
"Diane is a valued member of the Yale School of Management, and has been a part of the Yale community for 30 years," said Tabitha Wilde, Director of Media Relations for the Yale School of Management. "Our thoughts are with Diane, her husband Al, and their family."
Her students on campus Monday were rattled by the news.
“We received an email yesterday from the Dean and I was very shocked when I received the email,” second year MBA student Victor Lopez-Gonzalez said.
Mentkowski’s neighbor, Kathy Murray, of Wallingford remembered him as a beloved groom-to-be with a fiancée who worried about his safety.
"She was concerned about living here because of his job, where it was going to take him and where he’d have to go,” Murray said.
"He was going to be so excited,” Murray said of the upcoming nuptials. “She had the honeymoon booked, paid for and she was so excited, she said it all the time.”
Pilot Brad Greiner flew the same New Haven-Falmouth route in a similar SR22 plane over the holiday weekend without incident. He described the Falmouth Airpark runway as a safe but short, narrow strip that is challenging.
“There are a lot of things that could play a role and I’m guessing if it was windy that might have definitely played a factor in what had happened just from seeing that it had gone off the side of the runway,” Greiner said.
The National Transportation Safety Board launched an on-site investigation on Sunday to investigate of the cause of the crash.
Final results could take as long as one year. Meanwhile, the flag at Robinson Aviation in East Haven flew at half-staff in honor of Mentkowski.