Patients are mourning the death of a Putnam dentist who died in a plane crash on Saturday.
Dr. Gary Weller, 66, of Putnam, was flying a single-engine plane from Worcester, Massachusetts when it crashed at about 8 a.m. Saturday and he was killed, according to Worcester District Attorney D. Early Jr.
The1996 Mooney M20M plane veered to the right and crashed in trees near the airport, diving to one side before hitting the ground, witnesses said. The airport is 30 miles from his home in Putnam.
Weller was the only person aboard the plane. He didn't file a flight plan, so his destination is unknown.
Worcester firefighters and EMS personnel "attempted life-saving measures at the scene," according to the district attorney's office.
The office of the chief medical examiner in Massachusetts will examine the body and determine the cause of death through an autopsy.
Massachusetts state police, State Police Crime Scene Services, State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section, Massachusetts Aeronautics, the state Department of Environmental Protection, MassPort and Worcester police are investigating the fatal plane crash.
A former commercial airline pilot, Weller practiced dentistry in Putnam and also in Massachusetts for three decades.
His dental practice is located across from the United Methodist Church in Putnam. Pastor Barbara Kszystyniak said many of her parishioners are also his patients and that many were shocked to hear the news.
"I know that this is going to have an impact on a lot of people in the church this morning and we'll spend some time praying for his family," Kszystyniak said.
Kszystyniak said Weller has been "very gracious" to the church.
"Matter of fact, the signs in his parking lot say parking on weekends for church events," she said.
Upon hearing the news, patient Judith Gehrig, of Woodstock Valley, said its important to live life to the fullest.
“He was very gentle and very kind and that means a lot when you’re not really happy about going to the dentist. I was really shocked to hear what happened," Gehrig said. “In an instant, everything can change, and how precious every minute is that we’re living in. That we should live each one to the fullest.”
William Zamagni, of Putnam, said he "just couldn't believe it" and that Weller was a good friend.
"“Such a nice man. He was a real gentleman. I was devastated when I heard," Zamagni said.
Ed Vonderheide said Weller was "a wonderful man."
“It really shocked me this morning to hear the news, because he’s such a friendly man and a fine dentist, I haven’t met a finer dentist in my whole life," Vonderheide said. “I always felt good about seeing him and I’m shocked. I’m really shocked that he’s gone.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to be at the crash site Sunday to investigate the fatal accident and determine what caused it.