County Coroner Jeff McIntire received a commendation yesterday from the Genesee County Legislature for his tireless work -- more than 260 hours -- along with a team of responders -- to an airplane crash site in Corfu.
The Oct. 2 plane crash into a swampy, wooded area near Boyce Road claimed the life of Buffalo attorney Steve Barnes and the life of his niece Elizabeth Barnes, who was a government attorney.
McIntyre received the commendation from Legislator Marianne Clattenburg.
Here's a copy of the commendation:
WHEREAS, On the morning of October 2, 2020 an airplane crash occurred in the Genesee County Town of Pembroke resulting in two tragic deaths and significant wreckage, and
WHEREAS, The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Management Services, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Coroners and countless volunteers from several local Fire Departments worked together to provide a comprehensive response, and
WHEREAS, Genesee County Coroner Jeffery McIntire was called to the crash scene where he took command of a full experienced recovery team including New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners President Scott Schmidt, Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Pheiffer, Homeland Security Member & fragmented remains logistical supervisor Randy McIntire, and forensic photographer, logistician, deputy coroner and safety officer Cynthia Reynolds who provided crash victims’ families with loved ones’ remains and closure, and
WHEREAS, the value of comprehensive incident training and experience was made evident by the professionalism, compassion and commitment demonstrated by lead Coroner Jeffery McIntire, and
WHEREAS, seamless leadership was provided to multiple federal, state and local agencies who all played a role in the response, investigation, recovery and clean-up, and
WHEREAS, the elevated level of support and outstanding coordination of effort was acknowledged by the National Transportation Safety Board in their letter dated October 13, 2020, Now, therefore, Be it
RESOLVED that The Genesee County Legislature recognizes the contributions of Genesee County Coroner Jeffery McIntire, the Office of Emergency Management Services, Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming County Coroners, and the Volunteer Fire Departments who provided professional services following the traumatic plane crash.
The engine of an airplane that went down in a swampy and wooded area off of Boyce Road in Corfu was recovered today after being dug out from under more than 10 feet of mud, Sheriff William Sheron said this afternoon.
"One of the biggest problems we've had," Sheron said, "is water going back into the hole. It's a very high water table right there."
The search for pieces of the airplane, which disintegrated on impact, Sheron said, is complete and the parts are being shipped to Nashville for further investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The search for human remains continues. Mud has been removed from the crash site, Sheron said, and crews will sift through it in an attempt to recover more remains of the deceased. That process will go through at least all of tomorrow and perhaps into Wednesday.
Attorneys Steve Barnes and Elizabeth Barnes died in the crash at about noon Friday when the 2009 SOCATA TBM-850 fell from the sky as it passed over Genesee County.
The cause of the crash remains undetermined. A few minutes before the plane veered off course and started a rapid descent, the pilot, Steve Barnes, told an air traffic controller "everything is fine."
The plane does not have what is commonly referred to as a "black box" but some flight data is recorded on the plane. Sheron said the recording disk is about the size of a SIM* card (like you have in your mobile phone) and it has not been located.
More personal items of the victims were recovered today. Sheron said the ID of one victim has been recovered and other items have been recovered that were personal to the individuals.
"My team is doing a very, very thorough job on collecting human remains," said Coroner Jeff McIntyre.
Today, he said, the team dug as far as the mini-excavator would go, McIntyre said. By that point, no other items related to the crash were being found so, he said, he's confident they've dug down as far as needed to recover any human remains.
The human remains are being sent to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office for examination and DNA confirmation of the victim's identities.
*The acronym stands for subscriber identity module, or subscriber identification module.
This afternoon, Sheriff William Sheron and Coroner Jeff McIntyre held a press conference in Corfu, near the site of Friday's plane crash that claimed the life of attorney Steve Barnes and his niece, Elizabeth Barnes, also an attorney.
Sheron said human remains have been recovered but the search continues.
McIntyre said the remains will be sent to Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office for positive identification.
Sheron said authorities are certain at this point that Barnes and his niece were on the plane and that they were the only two people aboard the plane.
The plane's impact created a 10-foot deep crater in a swampy area that is prone to fill with water and mud, making recovery difficult.
The recovery at the crash site could take another 48 hours.
The FAA is handling many of the duties that might otherwise be handled by the NTSB investigators and both Sheron and McIntyre are confident the investigation will be handled appropriately. The NTSB investigators are not traveling because of COVID-19 concerns. The wreckage will be transported to Nashville where NTSB investigators will examine it.
Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-26) and Chris Jacobs (NY-27) are calling on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to send investigators to the scene of fatal airplane crash in Genesee County. The Western New York leaders made the request in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator and NTSB Chairman.
Higgins and Jacobs write in part, “the agency must develop and execute an appropriate plan to adequately and safely examine the crash site as soon as possible. Neglecting to do so leaves crucial information about what caused this tragic crash unknown.”
A small aircraft departing Manchester, New Hampshire, crashed on Friday, Oct. 2 in the vicinity of Corfu, New York, never reaching its Buffalo, New York destination. The crash tragically killed both on board; Steve Barnes ,the pilot and a Western New York attorney, as well as his passenger and niece Elizabeth Barnes, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the NTSB’s website: “At the core of NTSB investigations is the ‘Go Team.’ The purpose of the Safety Board ‘Go Team’ is simple and effective: Begin the investigation of a major accident at the accident scene, as quickly as possible, assembling the broad spectrum of technical expertise that is needed to solve complex transportation safety problems.”
The NTSB has indicated they don’t plan to send a “Go Team” of investigators to the Western New York crash site due to COVID-19, and will instead only provide a remote review of the accident.
Unfortunately, Western New York has been hit hard by several fatal aviation accidents including most recently the crash of a helicopter flown by Buffalo developer Mark Croce in January 2020 and the crash of Flight 3407 in February 2009 killing all on board and one on the ground. NTSB investigators were sent to the scene of both accidents. The NTSB Flight 3407 report led to sweeping changes to improve airline safety.
Higgins and Jacobs stressed the value of on-site investigators writing, “No community knows the importance of an NTSB investigation more than Western New York. These investigations prevent future losses of life, result in safer skies, and bring closure to those who have lost loved ones. We strongly urge the NTSB to proceed expeditiously with a full investigation including the deployment of on-site investigators.”
The Genesee County Coroner's Office has begun the process of recovering human remains from Friday's airplane crash site near Route 33 and Boyce Road in Corfu, according to Coroner Jeff McIntyre.
McIntyre said it will be a long process.
"I am unsure as to how long this will take, as the plane buried itself fairly deep in mud," McIntyre said. "My office arrived on the scene yesterday at 2 p.m. along with an aircraft recovery and salvage company contracted by the NTSB. We still have not found remains."
There are three coroners from Genesee County at the crash site along with the chief coroner from Orleans County, a forensic anthropologist from Wyoming County, along with volunteers from East Pembroke and Corfu fire departments, and staff from the Genesee County Emergency Management Office and the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
"My thoughts and prayers go to the Barnes family during this tragic time," McIntyre said.
When Mary Doktor heard the sound of an airplane clearly in distress passing over her house on Boyce Road yesterday just before noon, she looked up and saw a small plane passing overhead.
She knew it was too low to the ground and the engine was sputtering, making a strange "winding" sound.
"I knew it was going down and I thought, 'Thank God, he's not hitting my house,' " Doktor said. "That's what I thought. It was scary ... . Poor guy."
The plane, she said, was still relevantly level with the ground and the nose was not pointed down, she said.
She ran into her house to call 9-1-1 and then heard a boom.
"I ran back out and jumped in my car," she said. "I was scared at that point that somebody else's house was hit. I never even called 9-1-1."
The crash site was about a mile into the woods from Boyce Road. It wasn't possible for Doktor to get to the crash site but she could smell fuel in the air. There was no fireball, just a small plume of smoke rising in the air.
Steve Barnes, of Cellino and Barnes, and his niece Elizabeth Barnes apparently died in the crash, though the Sheriff's Office has not yet officially released the names of the victims.
Barnes was flying a 2009 SOCATA 700N, commonly referred to by aviators as a TBM-850, with the tail number N965DM, from Manchester, N.H., to Buffalo. Barnes had been in radio contact with Boston Center but apparently lost radio contact with air controllers there and a short time later made contact with air traffic control in Buffalo.
Once contact was established, a controller informed him to maintain 8,000 feet and asked him if everything is fine. "Yes, sir," Barnes responded. "Everything is fine."
A couple of minutes later, radar shows his plan veering north. The air traffic controller says, "965 Delta Mike, stop your descent, level your wings, maintain your altitude."
Twice more the controller tells Barnes to stop his descent. There is no response.
"965 Delta Mike, how do you hear?" The controller asks.
Within seconds, the plane disappears from radar.
"Radar contact loss," the controller says.
This afternoon, Sheriff William Sheron there was a change in plans for investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board to visit the crash site. The FAA is conducting the on-site investigation. The debris will be shipped to Nashville where it will be examined by the NTSB and the manufacturer.
TOP Photo: Genesee County Emergency Management vehicles parked this morning on land off of Route 33 near the crash site in Corfu.
UPDATE 2:00 p.m.: John Sackett of Batavia said it looked like a beautiful day to take in World War II era Ercoupe prop plane for a short air patrol. Unfortunately, the battery was a little short on juice, so he needed to start it by turning the propeller.
That's where things went wrong. Sackett said the engine got a little too much gas and when the engine started, the plane pushed over its chocks and started rolling down the runway.
Sackett was able to avoid getting hit by his own plane, but the grape vines of a neighboring house were less fortunate. As the plane entered the yard from Sackett's private runway, it headed straight for the grapes, hit a post, spun nearly 360 degrees and rolled into three pine trees, where it came to rest.
There were no injuries.
Sackett valued the plane -- used to train pilots near the end of WW II -- at $25,000. One wing was damaged and there's dent on the engine compartment. He said he isn't sure how much it will cost to repair the damage. He's owned the plane since April.