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‘You don’t expect to see a plane coming apart in the air:’ Two killed in small plane crash in Orleans County

By Aidan JolySarah Minkewicz,


RIDGEWAY, N.Y. (WIVB) — The FAA is investigating a small plane crash in Orleans County that killed a pilot and a passenger over Memorial Day Weekend.

Sunday evening, Howard Dix heard a strange noise outside while near his barn. When he looked up he saw a small plane break apart in the sky.

“You don’t expect to see a plane coming apart in the air,” he told News 4. “I thought people jumped out of it, like the parachute because there was a separation of stuff from the plane and it took a few seconds to realize that wasn’t what was happening. I just knew it was going to be bad.”

Two people were killed in the crash in Ridgeway on Sunday evening, according to the Orleans County Sheriff. They were later identified as 70-year-old Earl Luce, Jr. of Brockport and 72-year-old Rochester resident Morris Wortman.

Luce was the pilot. He and Wortman were both pronounced dead at the scene.

Police say they received a call just after 5:40 p.m., where first responders located a small plane behind a residence on Townline Road in Ridgeway. They say they found parts of the plane scattered in the area.

“We do know that part of the plane, on the east side of the road, probably at least a thousand or 1,500 yards from the plane. So it appears the plane came apart,” said Sheriff Christopher Bourke. “The plane was an experimental homemade plane, a very small plane.”

The Orleans County Sheriff’s office says a preliminary investigation shows that the aircraft’s wings “became detached from the fuselage and fell to the ground, landing in an orchard.”

“I feel bad. I think it’s tragic. I didn’t know that, but it’s tragic,” Dix said.

Police say they believe that the pilot was giving rides at a small airport in the Town of Gaines, and people at the airport called authorities concerned when the plane did not return.

The FAA and NTSB is working with local law enforcement on the investigation.

Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here .

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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