November 19, 2012

Portland man, 2 other plane crash victims had promising futures

As the federal investigation of the Owls Head crash continues, a UMaine official says the three fraternity brothers brought 'light and energy' to the campus.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

and Beth Quimby
Staff Writer

The three University of Maine fraternity brothers who were killed Friday in a fiery plane crash at Knox County Regional Airport were remembered Sunday as bright, well-liked and hard-working young men with promising futures.

University officials identified the crash victims as 24-year-old William "B.J." Hannigan III of Portland, 22-year-old David Cheney of Beverly, Mass., and 24-year-old Marcelo Rugini, a foreign exchange student from Brazil.

All three were members of the University of Maine chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha, a fraternity with a house on College Avenue in Orono, said Robert Dana, the university's vice president for student affairs.

"Losing these three young men is a loss for the entire UMaine community and the many people, including faculty and staff, whose lives they touched. They brought great light and energy to our campus and we will miss them," Dana said in a written statement.

Dana said a campuswide memorial service for the crash victims is being planned for the week of Nov. 25, after students return from their Thanksgiving holiday break.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and by the Federal Aviation Administration.

A preliminary report on the crash will be posted in 10 business days at It can take up to a year for investigators to determine a cause.

In a news release issued this weekend, the FAA said the single-engine Cessna 172 aircraft crashed on departure from the regional airport in Owls Head around 4:40 p.m.

The plane hit a pickup truck that was crossing the runway, went airborne and crashed into woods to the left of the runway. Hannigan was piloting the plane.

He was described by family and friends Sunday as a natural leader who was about to leave for flight school to become a pilot in the Air Force.

Hannigan, known to his family as B.J. and his friends as Will, was on active duty with the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor.

A native of Portland, he was a 2006 graduate of Cheverus High School, where he was the football team captain.

Hannigan graduated from the University of Maine in 2011 with a degree in civil engineering. He was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity during his years in Orono.

"He had a lot of energy," said his father, William Hannigan of Portland.

The father said his son fell in love with flying during a surprise birthday flight in a World War II fighter plane over Lake Champlain in Vermont.

"That might have been what did it," William Hannigan said.

Will Hannigan also played ice hockey both in high school and with the National Guard. He spent several months last year in Qatar with the National Guard.

His family said people sought out Hannigan's company.

"When he came by, we couldn't wait to come over and see what was new with him," said Joe Hannigan of Portland, Will's uncle.

Will Hannigan's mother is Carolyn Dorr of Windham. He is also survived by his younger sister, Alyx Hannigan, and a stepbrother, Justin Hayden.

Lucas Bernardi, another foreign exchange student from Brazil, came to Maine with Rugini six years ago as part of a program called Communities for Agriculture.

When they weren't at college, the two Brazilian friends lived and worked at Robert Spear's vegetable farm in Nobleboro. Spear is Maine's former commissioner of agriculture.

Bernardi, a senior at the University of Maine, had been invited to go on Friday's flight, but for some reason -- he could not explain why -- chose not to go.

He said Hannigan flew out of Bangor International Airport and took his friends to Nobleboro, where they circled Spears' farm several times before leaving for the Knox regional airport, about 25 miles away.

(Continued on page 2)

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