Update: Helicopter removes downed plane from Mattaponi marsh

The wrecked plane in King & Queen County was lifted from the marsh on Dec. 3 and will be taken by trailer to a holding yard.

Delaware- based Anglin Aircraft Recovery Services removed the plane using a 1964 Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, also known as a "Huey."

The Federal Aviation Administration conducted an investigation of the wreck this afternoon to determine the cause of the crash. No official cause has been determined.

According to FAA Front Line Manager James Cook, the National Transportation Safety Board will hand the investigation process over to the FAA if no critical injuries or fatalities resulted from the crash.

The NTSB investigates more high-profile crashes.

Ongoing coverage:

A single engine plane crashed Monday evening about a quarter mile west of the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport, near the York River, leaving the lone occupant uninjured, according to Virginia State Police.

The 1977 Grumman Tiger airplane was piloted by Christopher P. Strasser, of Pennsylvania, when the plane stalled after an attempt to land at the airport around 10:30 p.m., airport manager Bill Dale said. 

Following the crash, Strasser walked through the marsh towards the airport, eventually meeting with emergency responders on Brookshire Road.

Strasser's plane had departed Fort Meade, Md., en route to Williamsburg Jamestown Regional Airport, when Strasser rerouted to the airport located in Mattaponi due to poor weather, according to police. 

Strasser tried to land at the airport once, but was unsure if he had landed too far down the runway to complete the landing, The plane flew back up to try a second time, Dale said. 

The plane stalled as it circled around for a second landing attempt and crashed into a marsh on the edge of the York River.

The left wing detached from the plane and the tail was damaged during the crash landing, Dale said. 

Poor weather may have factored into the incident, the airport manager said. 

King & Queen residents reported to police that they heard a "thump" near Brookshire Road, around the same time that the expected plane did not land at the airport, Dale said.

A LifeEvac pilot used night vision goggles to find Strasser walking through the marsh. The LifeEvac pilot instructed him to walk to a gate on Brookshire Road, where airport staff picked him up.

Strasser was then brought to the airport where he was offered a shower and warm clothes, Dale said.

Strasser's wife was reportedly waiting for the plane to land at the airport when it crashed.

Emergency responders included Virginia State Police, Lower King & Queen County Volunteer Fire Rescue and two airport LifeEvac employees.

Virginia State Police have primary jurisdiction for airplane-related incidents, according to King & Queen County Administrator Tom Swartzwelder.

A West Point Police officer also responded to the scene, but left shortly after finding that the scene was under control, according to West Point Police Chief Bobby Mawyer.

After Strasser was found, emergency responders searched for the wreck for at least three hours, said Swartzwelder.

"The sense of urgency to find the wreck was not nearly as much as it would have been if the pilot was still in it," stated Swartzwelder. "The pilot was already safe by the time they searched for the plane."

The tall grass in the marsh and the knee-deep mud made the search a slow process, said the county administrator.

"If it had to happen, this was the best place to crash," said Dale, referring to the soft crash site in the marsh. The area around the airport is mostly wooded, according to Dale.

According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Jeff Orrock, the weather at the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport was similar to the Jamestown Williamsburg Regional Airport at the time of the crash, though Jamestown did have a little more fog. Visibility in Mattaponi was four miles, Jamestown was 2.5 miles.

The cloud cover was low and the weather was poor since Sunday evening, said Orrock.

According to Orrock, the low cloud deck could also have been a factor in the crash. Clouds were as low as 300 feet at both airports Monday night, which falls into the Low Instrument Flight (LIF) classification for aviation visibility and cloud cover. LIF conditions occur when the cloud cover is lower than 500 feet.

Private pilots need to have an "Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rating" to fly in low visibility conditions, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Most airports, including large airports with commercial flights, will delay flights if cloud cover is lower than 200 feet, said Orrock.

The airport, pilot and the pilot's insurance company were making arrangements on Wednesday to remove the plane from the marsh, said police.

Dale said that the plane will be lifted from the marsh by Delaware-based company Anglin Aircraft Recovery Services LLC sometime this week and transported by trailer to a holding area.

The plane will be removed using a helicopter because a tow truck cannot access the marsh, said Dale.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were notified of the incident, according to police. 

An examination of the crash site did not reveal any leaking fuel or oil from the plane, according to Dale, therefore the plane does not currently pose a serious environmental threat. 

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