Vienna man, daughter die in New York plane crash

LAKE PLACID, N.Y.- A Vienna man and his daughter were among three people who died in a small plane crash in the Lake Placid area of Upstate New York on Saturday.

On Monday, New York State Police released the identities of the three people who died when their plane crashed at a River Road farm.

Fred Y. Kafka, 63, of Vienna, his daughter, Kathleen F. Kafka, 24, and Reed Phillips, 25, of Michigan were named as the victims, according to state police. Kathleen Kafka and Phillips were students at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.

Fred Kafka was the pilot of the Mooney M20 airplane, state police said.

Jim Bennon, president of the Mid-Ohio Valley Aviation Association, said Fred Kafka had been a member of the pilot association for several years and was an active pilot who enjoyed flying around the country. He also described Kafka as a positive person.

“He was a good guy, I liked him,” Bennon said. “I always enjoyed my time when I was with Fred.”

The single-engine plane was removed from the farm property in Lake Placid on Sunday, and the nearby road was re-opened to the public. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.

“We are deeply saddened to share with you the loss of two students who perished on Saturday morning in a small plane crash near Lake Placid,” Clarkson University President Tony Collins wrote in a statement. “Our condolences go out to their family, friends, faculty and classmates.”

Collins said Kathleen Kafka and Phillips were physical therapy graduate students.

Lake Placid Airport Manager Steve Short said preliminary information showed the plane crashed after its first attempt at landing was thwarted by a plane approaching from the opposite direction. Both planes turned away from each other to circle and attempt the landing again, Short said.

He said Fred Kafka deployed his plane’s flaps but never retracted them before making the second approach, inhibiting the plane’s ability to fully circle and try another landing. The plane likely lost power, Short said.

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

“We heard a big, horrible thud,” Lesley 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 the women rushed to move them around to a different location.

A call from someone at the Lake Placid Airport first alerted authorities to the crash at 10:39 a.m. Saturday, state police Capt. John Tibbitts said at a press conference Saturday.

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

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