The pilot and passenger of a single engine plane apparently escaped serious injury last evening after crashing their four-seater Mooney aircraft into the scrub oak and low brush just a couple hundred yards shy of the approach to runway 15 at the Martha's Vineyard Airport.
Police and ambulance crews from at least four Island towns responded, shortly after 6 p.m., to the scene at the border of the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest and the airport, finding a dismembered plane and two men, both conscious.
The impact of the crash broke the leg of one of the victims, a 52-year-old man, emergency officials said. The other man in the plane, age 61, sustained injuries to his left knee and multiple leg lacerations, reports said.
They were able to extricate themselves from the wrecked plane, and airport rescue workers were on the scene within minutes.
The victims were transported to the Martha's Vineyard Hospital for treatment by Tri-Town and Oak Bluffs ambulances.
The two men, whose names were not released by police and airport authorities, flew out of Northeast Airport in Philadelphia, Pa. at approximately 4 p.m. yesterday, according to a statement issued by Martha's Vineyard Airport manager William Weibrecht.
Their plane flew toward the Vineyard airport on a northwest approach just a few minutes past 6, when it apparently dropped in too low, and hundreds of yards short of the runway.
From the wreckage, it appeared that the plane's right wing had clipped some trees before smashing into the ground amidst the knee-high grass and brush.
The nose of the plane clearly took the brunt of the impact. The engine, separated from the fuselage, lay on the ground about six feet away.
Firefighters on the scene said the pilot and passenger were fortunate to crash near the state forest fire lane, an area which is mostly clear of trees.
There was no fire.
Firefighters sprayed a foam, fire-retardant blanket around the smoking engine and left wing - still full of fuel - fearing a fire could be imminent.
Investigators from federal and state aviation agencies are expected to arrive on the Island today to determine what caused the plane crash.
Weather conditions reported from the airport at 6 p.m. showed winds from the south-southeast at 16 knots. There was no fog but skies at the Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory at Katama were hazy.
The pilot of the crashed Mooney aircraft was flying on instrument panel but using a visual approach when the plane crashed, said Mr. Weibrecht.
No distress signal was sent out from the plane to the tower, he added.
This is the first plane crash on the Vineyard in almost two years. The last crash - in November of 2002 - claimed the lives of two men whose single-engine plane vanished from radar over the Atlantic ocean off the south shore.
In August of that same year, an aviation researcher was killed when his plane crashed in the ocean just south of the Vineyard.
Two private planes went down in 2001, killing the pilots on board.
In 2000, four members of a Princeton, N.J. family and their dog were killed when their plane crashed on a foggy night approaching the airport.
And the most publicized crash in recent years took place on July 16, 1999 when a plane piloted by John F. Kennedy Jr. went down off Moshup Beach in Aquinnah, killing him, his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette. Mr. Kennedy, the pilot, was believed to have become disoriented in the hazy night.
The number of departures and landings by private aircraft at the Martha's Vineyard Airport have increased tremendously in the past 20 years, as more and more people fly to the Island, not only in small private planes, but also from greater distances in corporate jets.
At the height of the summer season, there are more than 500 takeoffs and landings at the airport daily, according to Mr. Weibrecht.
Brien Hefler, Mark Lovewell, C.K. Wolfson, Tom Dunlop, Jessie Royce Hill and Rachel Nava Rohr contributed to this report.