Julie Tate heard the buzz of her husband’s 1946 Stinson Voyager over their home in Durham late Sunday morning. As usual, she took the dogs outside to wave as he circled above them.

When her phone rang early that afternoon, she expected to hear his voice, saying he had landed safely. Instead, it was a police officer with bad news.

Dr. Louis Hanson, 60, died after crashing his plane into the ocean off Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth just before noon Sunday. Witnesses said he emerged from the plane after it hit the water, but he lost consciousness and could not be resuscitated by nearby surfers and boaters or emergency workers who brought his body to shore.

Hanson’s yellow four-seat plane was used in 1967 to test an innovative safety system in which the wings separated from the fuselage and all three pieces were carried to the ground by parachutes.

Hanson was featured in a documentary about the plane and the safety system it once had. He bought the plane about a decade ago, after his wife gave him flying lessons as a Christmas gift.

A Coast Guard spokesman said officials have discussed retrieving the plane, which is under about 60 feet of water.


Paul Conner said the salvage operation, overseen by the Coast Guard, could start as soon as this morning. A contractor would be hired for the operation.

“We don’t have actual confirmation yet that it’s going to happen,” Conner said Monday night.

He said a marker line is still attached to the plane, to help the salvage crew find it.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, which could take more than a year to determine, said spokesman Keith Holloway.

Hanson was well known and respected as a doctor of osteopathic medicine, and his death rocked Maine’s medical community.

After running his own family practice in Cumberland for more than 30 years, Hanson joined Mercy Yarmouth Primary Care in December.


“He’s the type of guy, you meet him once and you can’t forget him,” said Angela Westhoff, executive director of the Maine Osteopathic Association.

Hanson was known for having a way with words, and always wearing a bow tie. Colleagues said he had a wry sense of humor and a warm personality.

“He was just this giant heart that tried to circle around the whole world,” said his stepson, Michael Caron.

Hanson kept his home phone number listed so patients could reach him at any time, his wife said, and he even made house calls.

When patients died, he attended their funerals if he could.

A native of Kansas, Hanson moved to Maine in 1978 to do his residency.


Tate said he told her that he drove into the state, “smelled the ocean air and thought, ‘I’m home.’ ”

Hanson lived for many years in Cumberland, where he and his first wife, Deeanna Perry, raised their two children, Elizabeth Walker and Andrew Hanson, who are now in their 30s.

He planned to fly over Fort Williams on Sunday because he knew that Walker and her two children were going to be there.

The plane had crashed by the time Walker got to the park on the sunny afternoon. She saw the crowd and the ambulances, but didn’t think much of it. She later got a call from Tate and learned that it was her father.

Tom O’Connell, who taught Hanson to fly, said he wouldn’t guess what went wrong in Hanson’s plane.

Just a week ago, O’Connell watched him make a perfect landing at Twitchell’s Airport in Turner, where he kept his plane and where he took off Sunday.

“I know a little bit about people and how they fly, and he was good,” O’Connell said. “He was good.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.