Investigation continues in Amity plane crash

Federal investigators believe Wednesday’s plane crash at a private airfield in the township occurred while the pilot was performing “touch-and-go” landings on the grass runway.

Peter Knudson said the crash at Bert’s Field around 3:30 p.m. occurred after about an hour of repeating the maneuver in which an airplane comes in for a landing but then continues down the runway and takes off again without stopping.

Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Board, which is taking the lead on the investigation, said the plane involved was a Just Highlander that could be classified as experimental or “amateur-built.”

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A Just Highlander is a single-engine, propeller plane with a wing overtop the cockpit.

It was registered under the number N61148.

It was not yet determined whether the plane crashed upon the descent or ascent part of the touch-and-go.

John Bertagna, of Amity, who owns and operates the grass airfield, and Steven Bosshard, of Manasquan, N.J., were both injured in the crash, according to police.

The two were found outside of the plane, which was almost completely destroyed by a fire which occurred after the crash, according to Knudson. Initially, police said Bertagna suffered “visible injuries” while Bosshard suffered “unknown injuries.”

A source told 21st Century Media that one of the men suffered serious injuries and was likely dragged from the plane’s wreckage.

Amity Police Chief Kent Shuebrook said both men’s injuries aren’t life-threatening.

It wasn’t clear which hospital they were taken to.

No flight plan was filed but that isn’t unusual for small planes.

“Generally, flight plans are not required,” he said. “Fly by visual rules (are used) as long as they’re not in restricted flight space. Which is usually only near big airports.”

Knudson said NTSB officials are not going to visit the crash scene but get an agent from the Federal Aviation Administration on the ground to relay information to them.

Since the NTSB’s staff is limited to 50 regional investigators who handle 1,500 investigations each year, it’s easier to get the FAA’s larger staff to help out, according to Knudson.

The investigation is in its fact-finding stage, Knudson said, but a preliminary report is expected to be released within the “next 10 business days.”

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.