LITCHFIELD — Two people died Tuesday evening after a twin-engine cargo plane crashed under unknown circumstances in Litchfield during a training flight, according to officials.

The victims, who were not identified publicly Wednesday, were part of the onboard flight crew, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. They were the only people aboard the plane, which was destroyed.

Ralph Hicks, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news briefing near the scene of the crash Wednesday afternoon that the plane, a Beechcraft turboprop, was eastbound with an instructor and a newly hired pilot on board when it crashed at 5:41 p.m. Tuesday.

The debris in the wreckage path — about 200 yards long and about 50 yards wide — shows the plane was severely fragmented in the crash, indicating a “high-energy impact,” Hicks said.

“I can’t say how fast they were going,” he said, “We don’t have all that yet.”

He said there was no indication the crew members had planned to land at a nearby airfield in Wales, and weather was not a factor.


NTSB investigators plan to be at the scene of the crash throughout the week, but Oak Hill Road, which was scattered with debris and closed since Tuesday night, was expected to reopen Wednesday night.

Chief Rick Sieberg of the Gardiner Fire Department said Wednesday morning it was immediately obvious when the Gardiner Ambulance Service arrived at the scene that there were no survivors. 

The crash took place at Danforth Hill, in a heavily wooded area where officials from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection are working to assess and clean up a large fuel spill that has posed health risks for responders.

It was the first plane crash in the Kennebec County town of about 3,600 people since the National Transportation Safety Board began tracking crashes in 1962.

Officials block Oak Hill Road in Litchfield on Wednesday as emergency workers and representatives of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection respond to the site of a plane crash Tuesday that killed the two people aboard the Beechcraft turboprop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Spokespeople for the FAA and Maine State Police on Tuesday referred all questions about the crash to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Ken Mason said Tuesday night his office would release no information.

“As we continue our work on the incident in Litchfield, please be patient with our response time for nonemergency calls for service through out the county,”  Mason wrote in a statement posted Wednesday on Facebook. “This scene is very large and will take 2 to 3 days to mitigate the issue properly. Please keep the families of the two souls lost in your thoughts.”



The twin-engine Beechcraft C-99, operated by Wiggins Airways, took off at 5:09 p.m. from the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport – 21 minutes earlier than its scheduled departure.

Wiggins Airways is an all-cargo airline that operates in 12 states and provides feeder services for FedEx, UPS and other carriers, according to its website. The company is based in New Hampshire.

The plane traveled southwest out of Auburn before looping back over Sebago Lake and heading northeast toward Wales.

It was in the air for 31 minutes, before going down in Litchfield at 5:41 p.m., according to FlightAware, a flight data tracker. It crashed about 1 1/2 miles from the two turf runways at the privately owned Wales Airport-ME6 on Ridge Road. The airfield is also known as O’Connell’s Field.

The twin-engine Beechcraft C-99 turboprop that crashed Tuesday in Litchfield is seen in April 2023 at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire. Two crew members were killed. The plane was operated by Wiggins Airways, a cargo air carrier. Courtesy of Alex H/MHTPlanes

The flight, WIG634, was last recorded traveling at a speed of 214 mph at an altitude of 2,975 feet.


Initial reports indicated the aircraft was a Beechcraft 99, but it is registered with the FAA as a C-99, which is similar in appearance but has more engine power, a higher maximum takeoff weight and can fly at greater speeds. The plane that crashed in Litchfield was manufactured in 1982 and registered through September 2027, according to the federal agency.

A spokesperson for Wiggins Airways declined to comment on the incident, what the plane was carrying and how often the company’s planes travel this route. Officials at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport also declined to comment. The owners of the Wales airstrip could not be reached.

Hicks of the NTSB said the plane was equipped with avionics that send out information on its location. Some of that information goes to AirNav, a website that publishes aeronautical and airport information released by the FAA.

“It’s a general indication of what the plane was doing,” he said. “We will get more refined data later.”


People at the Meadows Golf Course reported hearing a crash at 5:44 p.m. Tuesday. Officials from the Gardiner, Monmouth and Litchfield fire departments searched for the wreckage near Oak Hill Road, with help from Maine State Police and the sheriff’s office.


Danforth Hill, the site of a fatal plane crash Tuesday, is seen Wednesday from the Meadows Golf Course in Litchfield. Some at the golf course reported hearing a crash at 5:44 p.m. Tuesday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dave Walko, who lives in the area of the crash site and is a former Air Force officer, said he witnessed the plane flying low. Walko had just come back from his daily walk and was in the yard tending to his vehicles when he saw the plane coming through.

“It was kind of low, but I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “There was no loud noises or ping or anything like that. The second time around, it comes through again trying to circle, and I do believe it was looking for a landing space.”

Walko said he heard the plane getting lower but it did not sound unusual because he is used to planes flying in the area.

“But then I heard a massive bang and I was like, ‘What the hell?’” he said.

At first, Walko thought it the sound of loud explosives, but after seeing emergency responders rushing to the scene, he feared the worst.

Arlo Grim, 9, of Litchfield speaks Wednesday of witnessing the plane crash Tuesday near his family’s house. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I told my wife, ‘You know this is kind of uncommon for that plane to be flying that low with that twin engine,’ but then twin engines fly here all the time, so I didn’t presume anything,” he said. “Who would expect that? It’s horrible.”


Several other residents said they saw the plane or heard the crash.

Nine-year-old Arlo Grim was out in the yard playing soccer at the time.

“And then there’s like — I heard a really low-flying plane,” Grim said.I looked up and I thought it was like, I don’t know, like it was almost sideways. I thought it was going to come down, like, do a loop around our house … and like, go away. It just kept going down, and I heard a boom.”

An adult who was with Grim Wednesday and did not provide his name said residents arrived at the scene before first responders and saw “debris in the road and steam coming out of the woods.” His neighbor decided to stay with friends up the road because of the strong smell of jet fuel in the area.

“It’s pretty nasty,” he said.

Nick Bourque, who lives at the top of the Danforth Hill also said he heard a “boom,” but did not see the plane.



Local and federal officials are investigating the scene of the crash.

David Madore, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said between 150 and 200 gallons of jet fuel might have been released into the woods on impact.

Emergency workers and investigators gather Wednesday on Oak Hill Road in Litchfield, near the scene of a fatal plane crash Tuesday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“DEP will assess the jet fuel spill when we get clearance from the FAA,” Madore said. “Once assessed, we will be able to implement a cleanup plan to minimize long-term impact. We are not aware of any sensitive receptors nearby.”

Jet fuel is like kerosene, according to Madore. It can damage soil, pollute water and is highly inflammable and can easily spark a forest fire. Madore said the fuel is volatilizing and causing respiratory concerns for searchers working in the area.

“The DEP will be providing some air monitoring while the medical examiner and FAA are surveying the site and recovery efforts,” Madore said. “DEP HazMat response staff will provide them with guidance on any hazards of the material, (personal protective equipment) needed and precautions that should be taken.”


Officials from the state agency were at the scene Wednesday morning, as were members of the Waterville Fire Department, the agency designated to respond to uncontrolled releases of hazardous substances in the area. Members of the Augusta Fire Department were also at the scene Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to determine the probable cause of the accident, as it does in most plane crashes. An initial report is expected to be published in a week to 10 days.

The debris will be collected and taken to a salvage facility in Massachusetts that specializes in aircraft salvage.

Hicks said the investigation could take 12 to 18 months.

Kennebec Journal photographer Joe Phelan contributed to this report. 

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