The Block Island Times

2 island residents dead in NH plane crash

By Pippa Jack | Oct 25, 2012

Herman Hassinger and his wife Doris, both 83, of Corn Neck Road, died today when their single-engine plane crashed into a highway in New Hampshire.

Hassinger, an architect and private pilot, owned a Beech Bonanza A36. He often flew with his wife. His plane had been involved in at least four previous accidents.

The plane crashed at 1:10 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, and was badly damaged and lying across two lanes of Interstate 93 in New Hampshire, said Lt. Nicole Armaganian of the New Hampshire State Police. Nobody on the ground was struck.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, said New Hampshire State Police Lt. Chris Wagner. "We anticipate this to be a lengthy investigation in determining the cause of the crash; we have nothing further to report at this time," said Wagner Friday morning, Oct. 26.

Witnesses saw the plane flying low. “It appears that it was flying in a southerly direction and struck a light pole and nosedived,” Armaganian said. “Its final resting place is in the high speed and adjacent breakdown lane, facing in a westerly direction.”

Hassinger was ejected from the aircraft in the crash, said N.H. State Police's accident report.

The high-profile crash closed one highway ramp and slowed northerly traffic to one lane. Motorists were being asked to find other routes.

Investigators from the Bureau of Aeronautics were on the scene Thursday afternoon, and investigators from the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board, which is the lead agency in the investigation, were on their way. The crash was being covered by various New England news websites Thursday afternoon.

Photos show the cockpit split in half and reports say the propeller had come off and was resting against a nearby tree in the wooded area near the highway.

The Associated Press reports that the couple was going to a board of trustees meeting for the New Hampton School, where Hassinger was a long-time trustee.

The plane had left Nashua, New Hampshire, earlier that day, said Federal Aviation Authority spokeswoman Arlene Salac, and was believed to be en route to Laconia.

The Bonanza, with a tail number of N4325W, was involved in previous accidents, FAA website records show. The plane crash landed at Nashua’s Boire Field, where Hassinger took it for maintenance, in August 2010. Hassinger told reporters then that he knew his landing gear had failed. He was flying alone and no one was hurt; crash records later showed the gear had not extended because of a crooked rod.

Previous crashes were in Texas in 1979 and Falmouth in 1993, according to FAA records.

Block Island Times archives show that Hassinger was involved in at least one other accident at the Block Island Airport. In October 2007 he crash landed without landing gear. An airport neighbor saw the crash and about 20 rescue workers responded, and were relieved to find Hassinger, the pilot and only person on board, unhurt and walking about outside the place. In that crash, the propeller tips and undercarriage were damaged.

Hassinger, a white-haired man with a pleasantly curmudgeonly manner who was well known and well liked in the Block Island community, was active in the Episcopal Church and served for years on the Historic District Commission, later representing clients before the commission. He was most recently part of the renovation of Ballard's Inn. He specialized in rehabbing churches and lighthouses, drew lovely Christmas cards, and collected mermaids. His devoted wife Doris raised the couple's three daughters and one son. Doris was known as a great cook and was active in the Island Free Library.

This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26.

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