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Official: One dead in glider crash in Mastic

The pilot, Vincent Petruso, 74, was the only

The pilot, Vincent Petruso, 74, was the only person in the sailplane at the time of the crash, according to authorities. Credit: Christopher Sabella; handout

A small glider crashed Saturday morning in Mastic near Brookhaven Calabro Airport, killing the only person on board, according to Suffolk County police.

The glider crashed shortly after 11 a.m. in a wooded area on state Department of Transportation property just south of Sunrise Highway, less than a mile from the airport, said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine.

A Suffolk police spokesman said the flight left the Brookhaven airport at 10:54 a.m. and crashed at 11:05 a.m., killing the pilot. No one was injured on the ground, authorities said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen confirmed the crash and identified the plane as a Schweizer glider. The agency, she said, will release the glider's registration and ownership information after local authorities release the pilot's identity.

Suffolk police said they are working with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the crash.

Suffolk police have closed Titmus Drive from Ardmour Drive to the Sunrise Highway North Service Road as part of the accident investigation.

Maria Spranger, 45, whose home at the corner of Ardmour Drive and Titmus Drive is one of the closest to the crash scene, said she heard a "loud bang" shortly after 11 a.m. and assumed it was a car accident.

Spranger said her house is under the flight path for small planes and gliders, and said that she often gets nervous about potential accidents. "They fly very, very low over my house, every day," she said.

Theresa Butcher and Andres Perez live on Ardmour Drive, just to the south of Sunrise Highway and west of Titmus Drive.

"I heard a loud popping noise," said Perez, 56. "I thought maybe it was a tire blowout [on Sunrise Highway] or maybe something similar to that."

Butcher, 50, said they see gliders flying near their home all the time and that some fly so low they've worried they're going to crash into their yard.

Gliders, which resemble small airplanes but which can operate with or without an engine, are generally towed into the air by another plane.

In 2000, a glider crashed into a Shirley backyard. Two years later, a two-passenger glider in tow from an East Moriches airport was forced to land at a neighboring airport after its tow rope broke. No one was hurt in either accident.

A Newsday search of the National Transportation Safety Board's online aviation accident database, which contains information dating to 1962 about civil aviation accidents and selected incidents, found no fatal accidents of glider passengers or pilots on Long Island.

According to Newsday archives, however, two people have died since 1947 in accidents involving gliders. A tow pilot, Dr. Lester Perry, 53, of Smithtown, was killed in 1984 when he crashed while pulling a glider in Brookhaven; the occupants of the glider were not injured. And in 1947, Valley Stream resident Robert Holt, 22, died after his glider crashed during takeoff in Mastic.

With Nicholas Spangler and Candice Ruud

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