Police & Fire

One Year Later: Plane Crash Mystery Still Not Solved

Val and Taew Horsa were killed in the Titicus Reservoir crash in Nov. 2015. Credits: File photo
Diving teams spent days searching for plane debris and the two people killed in the crash. Credits: File photo

(NORTH SALEM, N.Y.) --One year after a small civilian aircraft crashed into the Titicus Reservoir killing two South Salem residents, investigators still have yet to determine the official cause of the crash.

Val and Taew Horsa died when their small plane crashed into the Titicus Reservoir on Nov. 19, 2015. Val Horsa, who piloted the aircraft, was 76, his wife, Taew, was 66.

The plane, a Beech F33A, lost contact with air traffic control and crashed into the reservoir around 3:45 p.m. while executing an approach to Danbury Municipal Airport in Danbury, Conn. The flight had originated at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport in Parkersburg, W. Va., at 1:25 p.m.

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The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report that found the airplane came to rest in approximately 60 feet of water and sustained damage to the flight control surfaces and fuselage. The craft had been registered to the pilot, Val Horsa.

The NTSB, in its preliminary report,concluded that a review of air traffic control communications revealed the pilot was directed to and cleared for a runway approach at the airport. The pilot acknowledged the clearance. However, as the controller was preparing to terminate radar services and transfer communications, he noticed the airplane was in a descending right turn away from the airport.

The airplane, the NTSB said, descended to an altitude of approximately 1,500 feet before it began to climb to 2,400 feet heading westbound. It was at that point, the NTSB said, it disappeared off radar.
An initial search was not conducted due to poor weather conditions. Officials said weather reported at the airport around that time was about 7 miles per hour, visibility was one and a quarter mile with light rain and mist reported. The temperature was 14 degrees.

Airplane debris was located the following day on the shoreline of the Titicus Reservoir, which is about eight miles southwest of the airport.

The NTSB preliminary report said Horsa held a private pilot certificate for the single-engine airplane and at the time of the crash he had logged a total of 1,940 flight hours. Eric Horsa, whose father and stepmother were killed in the crash, said that his dad was an instrument-rated pilot, which means he had additional training.

Divers spent 10 days searching the reservoir, hindered by murky water and heavy rain, recovering parts of the plane as well as the remains of the victims. New York State Police, the Croton Falls Fire Department, Yorktown Heights Fire Department, Department of Environmental Protection, Civil Air Patrol and State Police aviation were all involved in the recovery efforts. Following the discovery of aircraft debris, the investigation had been turned over to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

North Salem resident Gail Pantezzi and her husband Sal were friendly with the Horsas who owned and operated Bangkok Restaurant, a Thai eatery on Newtown Road in Danbury. Pantezza told North Salem News last November that they had seen the couple in the weeks before the fatal crash.
“The food there was always delicious and amazing,” Pantezzi said. “Their story was one of courage and endeavor, hope and generosity, and the building of their successful business.” said Pantezzi, who saw the couple at their restaurant, shortly before the plane crash occurred. “My husband, Sal, and I are stunned by this tragedy and will truly miss them,” she said.

The NTSB has not yet released its final report on the crash, saying the cause remains under investigation.

Brett Freeman, Beth Tolmach, Luki O’Connor and Faith Ann Butcher contributed to this report.

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