Great Valley plane crash victims identified; probe underway

A Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office deputy walks across the turf landing strip at the Great Valley Airport on Thursday near the wreckage of a small aircraft which crashed on Wednesday, killing one man and seriously injuring another.

GREAT VALLEY — Officials have identified the victims in Wednesday’s small plane crash at the Great Valley Airport as federal investigators piece together the incident.

Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office officials reported Thursday afternoon that William H. Mandelare, 80, of Brockport, was killed in the crash of a Cessna single-engine aircraft at around 2:10 p.m. at the airport.

Severely injured was Raymond E. Groetsch, 72, of Brockport, who was airlifted by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition.

While sheriff’s deputies did not identify the pilot of the aircraft, Federal Aviation Administration records indicate both of the men on board the small plane were licensed pilots.

Groetsch was the owner of the aircraft and a licensed private pilot and aircraft mechanic. Mandalare possessed a commercial pilot license with single-engine landing and instrument flying ratings, as well as flight instructor, ground instructor and mechanic certificates. However, both had third class medical certificates dated for 2008 in the database — pilots over the age of 40 with a third-class certificate must have a new medical exam and certificate every two years. A request for verification from the FAA was not immediately returned.

Deputies reported they were assisted by Great Valley/Ellicottville, Kill Buck and Salamanca firefighters, as well as Ellicottville police, New York State Police and New York State Forest Rangers.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, and no cause has been publicly released.

The NTSB reported via Twitter that the plane involved was a Cessna 177 Cardinal, a single-engine airplane with four seats, and that its investigators would lead the review.

According to the FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing System on Thursday morning, the plane — a Cessna 177B with registration N24RG — crashed under unknown circumstances after takeoff.

A witness said the plane took off from the north end of the runway and was heading south when the wings tilted slightly, according to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office. A few seconds later the witness saw black smoke after the plane had crashed.

Local residents told the Times Herald on Thursday that investigators worked through the night at the site, placing portable floodlights to illuminate the area for the probe.

The FAA aircraft inquiry database reports the plane, which was unmodified, was manufactured in 1973 — about midway through the production run of the Cessna 177. Around 4,300 such aircraft were built in the late 1960s through the late 1970s. Of the 177B variant, there are 843 registered with the FAA, including 18 based in New York.

According to the FAA’s public Airman Inquiry database, Groetsch received his current private pilot license in May 2009, and was certified as an airframe and powerplant mechanic at the same time. Mandelare’s current license was issued in May 2009, with his flight instructor certificate issued in January 2020.

No accidents or incidents involving that tail number, the airfield or either pilot appear in the NTSB database.

According to the FAA database of airports, the facility is a privately-owned, public-use airport with a 3,800-foot-long turf runway.

The last airplane crash reported in Cattaraugus County was June 5, 2020, when a single-engine aircraft crash-landed off the runway at the Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport. The pilot was treated at the scene and released.

The last fatal accident in Cattaraugus County, according to the NTSB database, was in 1985 when a homebuilt copy of a Sopwith Triplane exploded in midair near Allegany and claimed the life of Dr. George Clapp, a dentist, who built the aircraft.

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