Officials block Oak Hill Road in Litchfield last week as emergency crews and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection respond to the site of a plane crash that killed two people. The state DEP is now testing the soil to determine if additional environmental cleanup is needed. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

LITCHFIELD — As federal transportation investigators continue their work to identify the cause of the fatal plane crash Aug. 22 in Litchfield, state environmental officials are evaluating the impact of spilled aviation fuel at the site.

On Wednesday, a member of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Technical Services staff was at the scene of the crash on Oak Hill Road, conducting soil sampling.

David Madore, deputy commissioner of the state DEP, said staff members have not seen any jet fuel at the site. They believe it may have sprayed in a thin layer that will evaporate and not pose health risks to people living nearby.

“Once we have the sample results,” Madore said, “we can better determine if any additional environmental cleanup will be necessary,”

Jet fuel can damage soil, pollute water and is highly flammable, Madore said the day after the crash. The substance, which vaporizes, had initially caused respiratory concerns for emergency workers, and the strong smell prompted some residents to move temporarily.

Two pilots, James Shepard-Kegl, 69, of North Yarmouth and Jumaane Omari Stanley Melville, 37, of St. Petersburg, Florida, were killed when the Wiggins Airways Beechcraft C-99 turboprop they were flying crashed into a ridge in the southwest corner of Litchfield, not far from the Wales town line.


The plane traveled southwest out of Auburn before looping back over Sebago Lake and heading northeast toward Wales.

It was in the air for 31 minutes before going down in Litchfield at 5:41 p.m., according to FlightAware, a flight data tracker. It crashed about 1 1/2 miles from the two turf runways at the privately owned Wales Airport-ME6 on Ridge Road. The airfield is also known as O’Connell’s Field.

The crash drew responders from around the region and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board to Oak Hill Road, a heavily wooded residential area. The road, which was part of the plane’s debris field, was closed for about a day.

The DEP provided monitoring while the crash site was first being searched. Madore initially estimated up to 200 gallons of jet fuel could have been released on impact.

“We considered this prudent because they lacked respiratory protection and the ability to monitor,” Madore said. “The numbers were all low enough that the short-term exposure was not an issue.”

He said a representative of Wiggins Airways, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, has been in contact with his department about the cleanup at the crash site.

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