Posted at: 09/30/2013 1:13 AM
| Updated at: 09/30/2013 1:59 AM
By: Steve Flamisch
EDINBURG -- An off-duty member of the New York State Police died Sunday in a fiery plane crash near the Great Sacandaga Lake, authorities said. The victim had survived a crash landing five years ago.
Timothy J. Cowper, 55, of Middle Grove, was the pilot and sole occupant of the Pitts S1 aerobatic plane that plummeted into a wooded lot adjacent to Trange Rd. at about 3:50 p.m. Sunday, authorities said. His body was found in the wreckage.
"He had a passion for operating aircraft," Maj. Steven James, the Troop G commander, told reporters at a press briefing. "Obviously he engaged in what he loved."
Cowper, an experienced and licensed pilot, had just taken off from the Plateau Sky Ranch Airport when something went wrong, James said. Witnesses told 911 dispatchers the plane appeared to experience mechanical difficulty before falling from the sky.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the State Police will try to determine the cause of the accident, James said. A final determination could take months.
In November 2008, Cowper experienced engine failure and crash landed after taking off from the same airport, according to NewsChannel 13 archives. He was not injured that day. It was not immediately clear if that was the same plane.
A 30-year veteran of the State Police, Cowper was a senior investigator and supervisor assigned to Division Headquarters in Albany, James said.
Cowper's brother is an inspector with the State Police, James said. Other family members have served in various police agencies and branches of the armed forces.
"He's from a family of law enforcement and military so that makes it all the more difficult to endure," James said. "But we'll rally together, provide the family with what they need, as best we can, and hopefully we can bring them some closure."