BINGHAM — The cause of a plane crash into the Kennebec River Tuesday afternoon is under investigation, according to police.
No one was injured in the crash, which occurred around 3 p.m. Tuesday when the pilot and owner of the plane, Ray Ayer, 59, of Monmouth, was taking off from the Gadabout Gaddis Airport.
Ayer and his passenger, Peter Householder, 54, of Wayne and Delray Beach, Fla., were able to escape injury and get out of the plane, a 1979 Beechcraft BE23, through the pilot’s door after the plane crashed into trees and landed in the river, said Ayer.
“I can’t get my head around it. There was nothing weird,” said Ayer.
Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said the cause of the crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Officials Tuesday didn’t know the cause.
Householder said he didn’t know anything was wrong until the plane hit the trees at the end of the runway and he felt the tail break off. There was a loud bang and they landed in the river.
The plane came to rest in a shallow part of the river not far from the airport, a private grass strip on the property of North Country Rivers on Main Street. It has a 2,000 foot-long runway that runs parallel to the river.
Ayer said he was headed to Augusta after coming to Bingham to look at a house and car for sale.
Mariah Ernst, 27, of Bingham, said she had just shown her car, a 1966 Corvette that she is trying to sell, to the two men and was preparing to take a picture of the plane as they took off when the crash happened.
“It was a really nice plane. They were about halfway down the runway when it started to make me nervous. It looked like they weren’t getting enough air,” said Ernst.
She said she watched the plane’s right wing clip trees at the end of the runway before spinning 180 degrees and landing on its nose and then its tail. The plane was heavily damaged and although it had not split in half, the tail was barely hanging on to the rest of the body.
Ayer said he doesn’t think it is repairable.
Jim Murton, owner of the airport and North Country Rivers, was in his office working when the crash happened. He said a customer at the whitewater rafting company told him about it and he immediately sent staff out to the site and called 911.
Murton, who is also a pilot, said he thought the heat and humidity contributed to the crash. Humidity makes it difficult for a plane to get lift, the force of the wind under its wings.
The Bingham Fire Department, Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance Service responded.
This is a corrected version of this story.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368