VERNON TOWNSHIP — The pilot of a single-engine airplane that crashed near Meadville on Tuesday morning walked away from the wreckage — and, until late Tuesday night, his whereabouts were unknown until a call from The Meadville Tribune was answered at his Connecticut home.
Authorities Tuesday were looking for John T. Bouley of Tolland, Conn., who was alone when the four-seat Piper aircraft went down at 9:46 a.m. in a wooded area off Rogers Ferry Road, just west of the Lincoln Avenue Sports Complex.
Contacted just before 10 p.m. Tuesday, Cathy Bouley, the pilot’s wife, answered the phone and said that her husband had arrived there a short time before that.
Cathy Bouley acknowledged that her husband was the pilot of the plane and said that he was in pain and asleep. She noted that it’s a private plane and that he had no comment at that time.
Bouley apparently rented a car and left the Meadville area late Tuesday morning after being treated at Meadville Medical Center for minor injuries.
“We’re at the preliminary stages of the investigation. All we know so far is we have a plane in the bushes,” said Ron Barone, an investigator with the Federal Aviation Administration earlier in the day.
Asked if Bouley was facing any charges or what the penalty might be for
not waiting to speak with investigators, all Barone would say was, “We don’t have a pilot.”
Meadville Medical Center officials confirmed that Bouley was released after treatment Tuesday.
Meadville Fire Department, Meadville Police Department and Meadville Ambulance Service initially were dispatched to the scene, but the investigation was turned over to Vernon Township police after the crash was determined to be in the township, at the border with the city.
However, Vernon police also were dealing with a two-vehicle crash on Route 322 at approximately the same time as the plane crash.
The plane crash site was secured by Vernon police for federal investigators until Civil Air Patrol members could relieve police.
By the time a Vernon Township officer was able to get to Meadville Medical Center around noon to interview Bouley, he had left the area, according to Vernon police Officer Tad Acker.
“He was able to get to (Port) Meadville Airport, got a rental car and went toward Erie,” Acker said. “There are a bunch of unanswered questions.”
The plane, a single-engine Piper aircraft manufactured in 1976, was registered to John T. Bouley of Tolland, Conn., with Catherine M. Haggerty-Bouley listed as another owner, according to FAA records.
According to Crawford County emergency radio traffic, the plane apparently lost power to its engine minutes before the crash — a Venango County-based air traffic control unit reportedly received a dispatch from the pilot that the aircraft had lost power.
Rob Kelley, an employee of Aarmark Land Management of Pittsburgh, was working spraying fertilizer on the softball fields at the Lincoln Avenue Sports complex at the time of the crash.
“I saw a plane flying in quiet and low. I thought it was low,” Kelley said. He went back to spraying, but moments later he heard a crash and saw the tail of the aircraft sticking up through the trees.
Kelley and an unidentified passing motorist who stopped after seeing the plane go down rushed over to the wooded area just west of the ball fields,
“We asked if he (the pilot) needed help and he said ‘Yes,’ ” Kelley said. “He yelled ‘I’m right here!’ ”
Kelley said Bouley was able to free himself from the wreckage and was able to walk out of the area on his own before being taken away in an ambulance.
The plane remained at the site Tuesday night awaiting removal. It was being guarded by Civil Air Patrol members.
Meadville Fire Department, Meadville Police Department, Meadville Auxiliary Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Meadville Ambulance and Civil Air Patrol assisted at the scene.
The FAA is continuing its investigation.
Keith Gushard and Ryan Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.