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Plane crashes near Gardner Airport

3 on board suffer serious injuries

Emergency personnel investigated after a small plane crashed yesterday in a wooded area near Gardner Municipal Airport. Emergency personnel investigated after a small plane crashed yesterday in a wooded area near Gardner Municipal Airport. (Mark C. Ide/Worcester Telegram & Gazette via Associated Press)

Three adults suffered serious injuries when the small rental plane in which they were flying crashed in swampy land overgrown with brush on its approach to Gardner Municipal Airport yesterday , authorities said.

The victims, two women and one man, were not identified. All three were taken by helicopter to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where they remained last night. At least one was treated for severe head injuries, Gardner fire officials said.

Rescue crews used chainsaws to carve a path through the brush, which included blueberry bushes and swamp maple trees, to remove the victims from the four-seat Piper aircraft, which crashed about 3:50 p.m.

"It was extremely thick vegetation," said Robert Newton , Gardner Fire Department captain. "It being so swampy, we probably sank a good foot into the mud, which made it that much more difficult."

Rescue crews had to use extrication equipment to free the victims. "The plane was pretty busted up," Newton said.

He said it took about an hour to get the victims to waiting ambulances on Airport Road.

The plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee, is owned by Beverly Flight Center , a flight school and plane rental business at Beverly Airport. The rented plane took off from Beverly Airport at 3:28 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the crash.

"So far, no witnesses have come forward to police," said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA's regional office in Burlington.

The crash echoed across Snake Pond, which is ringed with houses and summer cottages.

"It sounded to me like metal hitting something," said Paul Aukstikalnis , 68, a summer resident. "But it was quite a ways from me."

A woman who answered the phone at Beverly Flight Center last night declined to comment or identify herself. Arne Nordeine, the company owner, could not be reached for comment at his Danvers home.

Because the crash resulted in serious injury, the National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating, Peters said. A spokesman for the agency could not be reached for comment last night.

Gardner Municipal Airport, which is located in Templeton, has one 3,000-foot runway. The plane crashed about 700 feet from the runway, spilling fuel into marshland, Newton said.

"There was some spillage, but how much we're not sure," he said, noting that the plane did not catch fire.

About 20 police, fire, and ambulance workers from Gardner and Templeton responded to the scene. State Police, who also responded, are investigating.

Visibility at the time of the crash was thought to be good, with sunshine and some clouds, officials said.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com.

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