AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine warden pilot will be remembered at a private celebration of his life on Wednesday as a man who loved his family, country, state and job.
Daryl R. Gordon, 60, who served with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as a warden pilot for 25 years, died March 24 when the state-owned red Cessna he was piloting crashed in a remote area of Piscataquis County. The Eagle Lake man’s last act of kindness before the crash on Clear Lake was to stop and assist another warden whose snowmobile was mired in deep slush on Eagle Lake.
The 1 p.m. event at the Augusta Civic Center is being held by the DIF&W and the Maine Warden Service Association, a benevolent association for the welfare of wardens and their families. Gordon’s family has asked that the service be private, but those who knew or worked with him are invited to attend, according to DIF&W spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte. The press is excluded from the service.
A graveside service for Gordon will be held at 6 p.m. the same day at the Maloon Cemetery in St. Albans.
Gordon’s death was caused by blunt injuries and was accidental, according to Jim Ferland of the state medical examiner’s office. Ferland, who released the cause of death Tuesday, said the full autopsy results won’t be available for several weeks. As required by the Federal Aviation Administration, toxicology reports from pilot-related accidents must be forwarded to the FAA’s toxicology laboratory in Oklahoma City. It takes a considerable amount of time before those reports are returned to the medical examiner’s office, Ferland said.
The toxicology reports, along with other pertinent information, is used by the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the crash, according to NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson. An NTSB inspector arrived at Clear Lake on Sunday. The inspector observed that there was no post-crash fire and also learned there was no indication of distress before the accident, Knudson said.
A hand-held global positioning system, or GPS, was recovered at the scene, Knudson said. The unit will be sent to the NTSB’s laboratory in Washington to see what information can be obtained that might be helpful in the investigation, he said.
Investigations of fatal plane crashes are done in three phases — site visit, fact gathering and analysis — according to Knudson. The investigation is now in the fact-gathering stage, which will include interviews with any witnesses who heard the aircraft before and during the crash.
“There’s a lot of work that we do,’’ Knudson said. ‘’In a fatal accident investigation, the whole process takes on average 12 months. ‘’
Along with the witness interviews, information will be collected regarding radar data, air traffic control tapes and weather reports. Knudson said the investigator will try to establish the history of the flight, such as whether the pilot obtained a weather briefing and if he filed a flight plan. The aircraft and its maintenance records will be scrutinized. In addition, research will be compiled on the pilot, his certification, licenses, license ratings, flight experience, the total hours he has flown, his medical certifications, and any health issues, Knudson said. The autopsy and toxicology reports also play a key role in the findings, he said.
Knudson said the investigator will try to establish a ‘’72-hour background,’’ meaning what activities the pilot was engaged in 72 hours before the accident. That background check will include whether the pilot had any sleep or medical problems that may have compromised his ability to fly the aircraft.
Plane crash investigations take considerable time, according to Knudson. ‘’We have 50 investigators around the country to handle 1,600 accidents, so each of them have a significant workload,’’ he said.
Knudson said that typically the inspector files a preliminary report within two weeks of the accident, and the report is posted on the NTSB’s website.