Two People Killed in New Hampshire Plane Crash

HOOKSETT, N.H. -- Authorities have identified the couple killed when their small plane crashed along I-93 in New Hampshire Thursday afternoon, hitting a light post before dropping onto the busy interstate.

Herman Hassinger, 83, and his wife, Doris, 83, of Block Island, R.I., were killed in the crash, said N.H. State Police Lt. Christopher Wagner. Herman Hassinger was ejected into the woods about 20 to 30 yards from the plane's fuselage, while Doris Hassinger was found inside the crashed plane, Wagner said.

The single-engine Beechcraft somehow lost control and crashed into a "wooded area" along the northbound lanes of the highway just south of the toll plaza and north of Exit 10 around 1:10 p.m., this afternoon, New Hampshire State Police spokeswoman Lt. Nicole Armaganian.

"The plane was flying in a southerly direction, struck a light pole adjacent to the interstate, essentially causing the plane to nose dive," state police said.

The fixed-wing plane, its propeller detached and standing upright against a nearby tree, came to rest on the shoulder of the highway against a guardrail, its tail sticking in the left lane. The impact against the light post sent three large metal light fixtures plummeting to the ground. Wagner said the plane lost its right wing after it clipped the light pole.

Its badly crumpled fuselage was covered by a blue tarp this afternoon. It appears pieces of the plane, adorned with orange and brown stripes, had broken off.

The crash closed the ramp from I-93 North to I-293 South, state police said. I-93, meanwhile, was down to one northbound lane. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board, which will lead the investigation, and the Federal Aviation Administration were en route this afternoon, state police said.

FAA officials said the plane had taken off from Nashua Airport and was heading to Laconia. Royce Rankin Jr., the manager at Nashua Airport, said the plane had originally come from Block Island.

"This is unfortunate," he said.

The plane is registered to Herman Hassinger Architects out of Block Island, R.I., according to the FAA's online database.

Herman Hassinger was president of his company and was a former president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, according to a biography listed on the website of the New Hampton School in New Hampshire, where he served on the board of trustees. The school described his company as an award-winning agency that has "a special reputation for institutional, religious, geriatric, and health care facilities."

Hassinger was also a trustee for Upsala College, and a Lutheran church council member, according to the biography.

According to FAA records, the same plane was involved in three other incidents, dating back to 1979 in Beaumont, Texas, when it was "blown off the runway" when a large prop jet it was following applied power.

In July 1993, the plane was involved in what the FAA deemed a "hard landing" at Falmouth Airport, where the plane's nose gear was torn off, its propeller damaged and its engine destroyed. A wind gust was blamed in the crash, according to the data.

Then, in August 2010, the plane was forced to land at Nashua Airport after an apparent landing gear malfunction. The pilot "tried for an hour to crank gear down unsuccessfully," according to the report, and it was forced to land on its belly, causing "some smoke" in the cockpit, according to the FAA and a manager at Nashua Airport.

Hassinger was the pilot then, and it's the only incident report the FAA has on file for him.

"He walked away from it," Rankin said of Hassinger. "Once we were able to get it off the ground with the equipment, we were able to pull the gear down and we took it in to be repaired."

Copyright 2012 - Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service