Investigators Launch Inquiry Into Crash of Angel Flight

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The small airplane carrying a Long Island cancer patient to Boston for medical treatment departed New York around 9:10 a.m. but, just over an hour later, the pilot missed a turn toward Logan International Airport and descended low enough to warrant an alert from air traffic controllers, according to federal investigators, who yesterday began their inquiry into Tuesday’s fatal crash.

Following the alert, controllers lost communication with the pilot and, after a bizarre series of ascents and descents, witnesses saw the plane spiral to the ground, where it crashed in a parking lot in Easton, Mass., about 25 miles outside Boston, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Three passengers aboard the Beechcraft Bonanza airplane died, including the patient, identified as 43-year-old Robert Gregory of Riverhead, N.Y., his wife, Donna, 37, and the pilot, Joseph Baker, 65, of Brookfield, Conn. The plane, operated by a network of charities that ferries patients to medical treatment, called Angel Flight, was taking Robert Gregory to Boston for treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He suffered from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“It’s ironic, someone going for treatment and they perish in a plane crash,” a neighbor of the Gregory family, Rob Kirschner, said.

Investigators projected a months-long inquiry into the crash, the third fatal crash for the Angel Flight network since June. Investigators said that as in all investigations, they would attempt to piece together the activities of the pilot prior to the flight. They said they had no immediate plans to investigate Angel Flight.

On her Web log, Donna Gregory chronicled her husband’s battle with cancer and her efforts to care for him and for their 4-year-old twins, Bobby and Amanda. In entries posted last year, she wrote about a desire to have more children and about a used Volkswagen Beetle the family bought. “My son loves to help in the barn with the car and asks his daddy all the time if they can work in the ‘orange’ car,” she wrote. “I hope this project brings lots of fun memories to both my son and my husband.”

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