May 30, 1979: Seventeen of the 18 people aboard a Downeast Airlines commuter plane from Boston die when the plane crashes into a heavily wooded area on Otter Point in Owls Head.

The pilot, trying to land at Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, made a request for a diversion to Augusta because of poor weather. Then the plane, a DeHavilland DHC-6-200, loses its left wing when it hits two trees about 80 feet above the ground. It strikes several more trees, losing parts, and the fuselage comes to rest nearly vertically, standing against a tree.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the accident attributes the crash to the flight crew’s failure to abort the landing when it reached the minimum altitude for a non-instrument approach without having the runway in sight.

The NTSB report said it was unable to discover why the crew acted as it did, but found “inordinate management pressures, the first officer’s marginal instrument proficiency, the captain’s inadequate supervision of the flight, inadequate crew training and procedures, and the captain’s chronic fatigue were all factors in the accident.”

The only survivor was John McCafferty of Searsmont, who was 16 at the time and suffered several injuries. McCafferty, now retired, still lives in Searsmont.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com.  Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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