UPDATE: N.Y. plane crash victims identified

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – Three people killed when a small plane crashed and burned Saturday morning near Lake Placid have been identified, including a Vienna man and his daughter.

New York State Police tell local media that 63-year-old Fred Kafka of Vienna was piloting the Mooney M20 when it crashed Saturday morning after attempting to land at the Lake Placid Municipal Airport in the town of North Elba.

Also killed were his daughter, Parkersburg High School graduate Kathleen Kafka of Rock Springs, Wyo., and Reed Phillips of Midland, Mich. Both were graduate students at Clarkson University in northern New York.

Police say Fred Kafka was thwarted from landing by a plane approaching from the opposite direction. While making another approach, his planed stalled and crashed into a field.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the single-engine plane’s crash, and state police were holding the scene for them, State Police Capt. John Tibbitts said over the weekend.

The plane crashed on the property of Snowslip Farm, among some evergreen trees about 40 feet from the road. Lesley Trevor and her family own the 125-acre farm and was in a barn with her daughter Emily when they heard a plane flying low overheard. Then they heard it crash.

“We heard a big, horrible thud,” Trevor said. “My daughter said ‘Oh, my God, it’s right here!’

“We saw it burn. It was right there. There was nothing we could do. We couldn’t save them.”

Their horses were on the other side of the burning plane, so Trevor and her daughter rushed to move them around to a different location.

A call from someone at the nearby Lake Placid Airport first alerted authorities to the crash at 10:39 a.m. Saturday, Tibbitts said. The plane was fully engulfed in flames when a reporter got to the scene less than five minutes later.

The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department was the first emergency agency on the scene, at 10:44 a.m., and extinguished the burning plane quickly. There was some concern that there was extra gas in the plane that could explode, but that didn’t happen, fire Chief Torry Hoffman said.

Jay Rand, a North Elba town councilman who lives on River Road, was one of the first people on the scene. He was on his way to a local lumber yard and stopped, encouraging people to stay away from the burning plane in case it might explode.

Meanwhile, people were still trying to run and bike on River Road, but authorities closed it off to traffic.

Lake Placid village police, the Lake Placid Ambulance Service, the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department and the state Department of Environmental Conservation were also on the scene.

Naj Wikoff, of Keene Valley, who works with Snowslip Farm on an equine healing project, showed up as soon as he heard.

“This is a very tragic event to have happened,” he said. “Nobody wants this to happen ever.”

The Associated Press contributed.