Plane Down in Sagg

Two injured as vintage aircraft hits cornfield
70-year-old Ryan P-22
This roughly 70-year-old Ryan P-22 had its engine cut out before it dropped into a Sagaponack field on Sunday. Hampton Pix

    Taylor Smith of East Hampton was aiming for a grass airstrip at the Foster farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack when, for reasons still unknown, the engine of his World War II-era Ryan P-22 monoplane just quit.
    According to a report issued by the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday, “The plane landed in a field and flipped over.”
    The call went out to police at around 10:15 on Sunday morning, when Mr. Smith, 54, and his passenger, Daniel Willman III of Connecticut, who is said to be in a long-term relationship with Mr. Smith’s daughter, were heading toward the private airstrip on the Foster farm for a casual antique plane gathering.
    Cliff Foster and his son, Dean, are members of the Long Island Antique Power Association and have long been fans of antique farming equipment and airplanes. They host an annual tractor pull that includes demonstrations of antique planes, usually in mid-September.
    Both of the men survived the crash. (A statement issued by the F.A.A. on Monday mistakenly reported that Mr. Willman had died.)
    There were many reports Sunday morning of people having heard a plane’s engine abruptly stop, followed by a loud thud. Southampton Town police and Bridgehampton Fire Department volunteers quickly found the plane off Bridge Lane, in a cornfield on the White farm in Sagaponack, not far from the Foster farm.
    The two men were taken to the Foster farm, where a helicopter landed to transport them to Stony Brook University Medical Center. One of the men, however, it is unclear which, was not stable enough to fly and was taken to Southampton Hospital first.
    Both men sustained severe injuries, although as of press time it looked as though they had passed the precarious 72-hour window and were expected to improve. Mr. Willman, who is 23, had 21 fractures to facial bones, while Mr. Smith had a fractured skull and kidney damage. Mr. Smith is a commercial pilot who has been based at East Hampton Airport for many years.
    Richard Thayer, the chief of the Bridgehampton Fire Department, said that within minutes of receiving the call there were roughly 30 responders at the scene — a combination of state and town police, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters.
    According to Mr. Thayer, Southampton Town police secured the area and mapped out the location of the crash site, which was about 1,000 feet from the landing strip. “It was an abrupt landing,” he said.
    Four or five other planes had arrived at the Foster farm that day, Mr. Thayer said, but there were no other problems reported.
    The Fosters’ airstrip has been in existence for many years, dating back to when flying was a hobby for Cliff Foster, John White Sr., and Harold Topping, among others in Sagaponack, who would take joyrides in the sky when the area was practically all fields and farms.
    “Taylor is a superb pilot and a close personal friend,” said John White Jr. “This was an unfortunate accident. My family and I are praying for both of them to make a complete recovery.”