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Jul 24, 2011 12:07 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Family: Sagaponack Plane Crash Pilot, Passenger On The Mend

Jul 27, 2011 10:42 AM

A pilot and his 23-year-old passenger were seriously injured and remained hospitalized after crashing a classic plane into a cornfield in Sagaponack on Sunday morning.

The single-engine aircraft crashed at about 10:15 a.m. when the pilot, who had circled a private grass runway on the Foster farm off Bridge Lane, lost control of the open-cockpit two-seat airplane. It plummeted into an adjacent cornfield on the John White farm.

The pilot, Taylor R. Smith of East Hampton, and his passenger, Daniel E. Willman III of Connecticut, were treated at the scene by the Bridgehampton Fire Department Ambulance Company. Mr. Smith was flown to Stony Brook University Hospital Medical Center via Medevac helicopter. Mr. Willman was taken by ambulance to Southampton Hospital, where he was stabilized, then later transferred to Stony Brook. Details of their injuries were unavailable.

According to the FAA website, the plane, registered to Mr. Smith, was manufactured in 1941. According to government records, Mr. Smith is a commercial pilot certified to fly 747 jets.

The airplane, based out of East Hampton Airport, was destroyed in the crash. It was identified by officials as a Ryan ST3KR, a civilian model of the Ryan PT-22, a military trainer that was used by the U.S. Army Air Corps in the early to mid-1900s.

Southampton Town Police Sergeant Lisa Costa said on Tuesday that both men were “recuperating” at Stony Brook University Medical Center. Mr. Willman’s uncle, Josh Willman of Illinois, said on Wednesday morning that his nephew’s health seemed to be improving, and Mr. Willman, who suffered head injuries, was able to communicate with his family via pen and paper. Doctors were expected to surgically reconstruct Mr. Willman’s face, as well as remove two bone fragments from his brain on Thursday, July 21.

“He had 21 breakages in his face, between his forehead and his eye sockets and his jawbones and his skull,” he said of his nephew.

Mr. Smith was up and walking around on Tuesday, Mr. Willman said, and was able to visit “Danny”—his daughter Julia’s longtime boyfriend—for the first time since the crash. Mr. Willman described it as “an emotional time.”

The crash site was cleaned up at about 2 p.m. on Monday, according to Sgt. Costa. “The FAA is obviously the reigning authority on plane crashes, and they are the lead in the investigation, and they will be continuing the investigation from here,” she said.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said this week that a National Transportation Safety Board report would be forthcoming and could take as long as 10 days to be issued.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation will also investigate the site in coming days to determine whether there was fuel leakage into the soil, and if so, how to clean it up, according to DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo.

On Monday morning, officials from the FAA and Southampton Town Police mistakenly reported that Mr. Willman, who wasn’t identified at the time, had died. Later that day, Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said the passenger was alive and in critical condition. Also, FAA spokesman Jim Peters retracted an earlier report that the passenger died.

There were five other small classic aircraft parked at the Foster farm on Sunday afternoon. According to one man, who identified himself as a pilot of one of the planes but declined to give his name, the pilots have an “open invitation” from Cliff Foster to use the private airstrip and had gathered there Sunday morning to have breakfast.

He said the Ryan ST3KR, which was not part of the group, circled the field before crashing, but then “came down violently” without its engine running.

Lee Foster confirmed on Sunday morning that the pilots, whom she described as being part of a classic airplane club, gather at the airstrip infrequently.

Patrick Coonradt, the foreman of a construction site close to where the plane crashed, said it was “horrific” watching the accident unfold. He was at work on a house just off Ocean Road in Bridgehampton when he heard a group of planes. He ran to the roof of the two-and-a-half-story home to see what was going on, when he heard airplane sounds that indicated that a plane was in trouble. The plane was flying at about 350 feet above the ground, Mr. Coonradt estimated.

“I saw it sputtering, and when the engine stopped, I mean, everything was real quiet,” Mr. Coonradt said. “Not only the plane, everything. There wasn’t a sound. Not a single sound until the thump hitting the ground.”

The plane was flying low enough, at about tree level, so he could see the two men seated in it. He couldn’t see much more than that, he said.

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Great coverage on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 24, 11 3:43 PM
Never new planes were able to land...where ever the hell they like. I guess money talks in Southampton Town.
By c'mon now (46), southampton on Jul 24, 11 8:28 PM
oh yeah, very unique here...where money talks. except that has been the trend for the last 4500 years.
By kaluss (113), Southampton on Jul 24, 11 9:05 PM
And it is knew not new.
By jfg (1), southampton on Jul 24, 11 10:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
c'mon now,

Cliff Foster has been landing planes, including his own antigue, on an air strip on his large farm, long before you KNEW the Hamptons existed. Possibly beforem the EH Airport existed.
By phins (43), East Hampton on Jul 25, 11 7:29 AM
he East Hampton airport was built in the Depression by the WPA so that was about 1935 or so. The Foster's and the White's have been flying small planes for quite a while. I am sure they are just as devastated as the families of these two men. It is a tradgey. It doesn't need dummies like some of the above to make fun such a sad event.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Jul 25, 11 12:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
THE PASSENGER IS VERY MUCH ALIVE!!!! Not sure who gave the information to the Chief, but it is incorrect. This is coming from a friend of the family who has been in contact with the them on a regular basis.

By anonymous11937 (1), east hampton on Jul 25, 11 12:54 PM
As noted, the FAA has retracted its earlier confirmation of the man's death. Both the FAA and Town Police had confirmed it when we reported it earlier. Apologies to the family and to our readers, even though this one was beyond our control.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Jul 25, 11 2:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Government in action !!!

OT -- No wonder the debt ceiling crisis has reached the breaking point.

You can't make this stuff up.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 25, 11 2:19 PM
No need to make it up when you are talking about a useless government agency such as the FAA. Hopefully, they will soon be wiped away and we can privatize this entire charade - then those FAA dolts can sleep in their own bed rather than the control tower.
By HSA (68), southampton on Jul 25, 11 2:32 PM
why are the names being withheld?
By just breath (82), yuck on Jul 25, 11 5:59 PM
Happy Days for Cliff Foster. This is the year 2011. It is not 1941. Just because it was permitted years ago, does not mean it should be happening today. That area has been developed into a "high end " residential neighborhood.
You need a permit to fart in Southampton Town. Landing planes or helicopters in fields, parking lots or driveways should be frowned upon.

And for the record, my family has been on the East End since late 1800's. I was born in 1963. I have seen the East ...more
By c'mon now (46), southampton on Jul 25, 11 6:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
I guess I will never understand the kneejerk nastiness of the uninformed but strongly opinionated commentators to articles whether about a flower show, a scholastic achievement or a tragic accident. A pilot and his future son in law out for an enjoyable Sunday jaunt in a beautifully restored aircraft, attending a club meeting on a private airstrip of many years experience an unfortunate loss of control or mechanical failure, and instead of relief that they survived and no one else was injured, we ...more
By Solusipse (8), Sagaponack on Jul 25, 11 6:07 PM
Not exactly at their own risk when each year there are dozens of people on the ground, truly minding their own business, who are killed by light aircraft crrashes.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jul 26, 11 6:54 PM
And the people killed on the ground here are identified as . . . . . ?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 26, 11 6:58 PM
Why is is the business of the FAA to make any announcement about the condition of the pilot or the passenger? That's not part of their duties!

They are there to assist in finding the cause of the crash, that's all!

The hospital or the family should be the ones making any such announcement! Why would Wilson take the FAA's word on something like this!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jul 25, 11 7:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Facing furloughs FAA fails
By loading... (601), quiogue on Jul 26, 11 11:08 AM
the passenger's name is Daniel Willman III - let's get it right.
By anonymous32207 (1), Jacksonville on Jul 26, 11 3:08 PM
This article has been substantially revised as of 6:10 PM, but you would have to print out the current revision, and all the previous ones, to know what is "new information."

The good news? Thank you to the editors and Ms. Abbas for the new information. Well done.

The bad news? Following the constant updates is confusing and tiring.

Editors, would it be possible to post a basic article first, and then post updates separately identified by date and time?

The barnstorming ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 26, 11 6:33 PM
My condolences to the family and friends of the young man.
By Montaukette (46), Waterland on Jul 26, 11 6:43 PM
Condolences? Has someone died?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 26, 11 7:03 PM
People love to b_ _ch about everything. I remember when people moved near the easthampton airport & then complained about the noise & tried to get it closed.I'm reminded of this everyday when the sweet smell of liquid moo(manure) is being spread or stirred by the dairy farm across the road from me.After all I moved across the street.They've been therer forever.s for change. Change sometimes is for the worse.Just look at the president!!!!!!!. The hamptons was our paradise until the secret got out ...more
By transplanted newyorker (15), Sag harbor on Jul 27, 11 4:27 PM
Another update as of 10:42 AM yesterday.

Go figure.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 28, 11 8:14 PM
PS - To clarify -- I am so happy that Mr. Smith and Mr. Willman are doing well.

Editor, please update your "updated" software so that we can figure out what is the new news.

Thank you for the new news, and for all other gnu nuzs.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jul 28, 11 8:26 PM