JOHNSTOWN - It was a time of healing and praise for volunteers, as those associated with the recovery effort after the May 25 Angel Flight plane crash in Ephratah came together at an emotional reception Tuesday at the Holiday Inn.
Three people died in the crash, and a subsequent search stretched emergency services from Fulton and Montgomery counties to the limit for several weeks.
State Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, R-Newport, and Holiday Inn Manager James Landrio organized the reception for nearly 100 guests. The event brought together public safety officials and volunteers with Angel Flight Northeast and those involved in the search and recovery. Family members of the victims chose not to attend.
Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, left, shakes hands with Larry Camerlin, founder, president and volunteer pilot for Angel Flight NE as he is given a proclamation during the recognition event at the Johnstown Holiday Inn on Tuesday. James F. Cear, chairman and volunteer pilot, looks on at right.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"This is all about you folks and what you do out there," Butler told the police, fire, forest ranger search and rescue teams and EMS personnel at the event.
The Angel Flight involved a Piper PA 34, which had taken off from Laurence G. Hanscome Field Airport in Bedford, Mass., and was headed to Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County. The plane went down near Granny's Ice Cream Shanty at the Royal Mountain Campsite on Route 29. Killed were pilot John Campbell of Stamford, Conn., and passengers Frank Amerosa, 64, and his wife, Evelyn Amerosa, 58, of Rome.
Frank Amerosa had been receiving medical cancer treatments in Massachusetts. The last body to be found was his, found June 13 next to an unused freezer about 150 feet from the ice cream stand.
During the reception, Joan and Tom Dudley - owners of Granny's - presented a $150 check to Angel Flight.
Butler noted how his staff member, Dottie MacVean, suggested certificates of appreciation, but his office wanted to go one step further with the reception for those who "scoured the area for weeks looking for Frank's body."
"These are men and women who took unpaid days off to help," he said. "This event took on a life of its own."
The assemblyman also presented an oversized duplication of a resolution passed by the state Legislature honoring Angel Flight Northeast for 18 years as a nonprofit helping those with flights for medical needs.
"This is truly an honor to host an event with so many heroes in this room," said Landrio.
Angel Flight founder Larry Camerlin noted his organization - which runs 100 flights a week, logging 13 million miles over the years - has helped 63,000 children and adults needing medical services.
"It is so humbling to be before all of you," he said.
Camerlin said Angel Flight was devastated by the loss of pilot Campbell and the Amerosas. He said the weeks leading to the discovery of Mr. Amerosa's body were wrenching.
"But you never gave up," Camerlin told the volunteers. "You never stopped looking. What you did for that family will last a lifetime. I just say, 'God bless you all' for never giving up. You are truly our heroes and our saints.'"
Before the informal reception, several attendees recounted the plane crash and the aftermath of the search.
Sammonsville Fire Chief Stan Allen, whose 23 volunteer firefighters worked tirelessly, said, "We do this all the time."
He said there was no lack of volunteerism when the call came in about the crash.
"The guys had time and just went up," Allen said. "I wish we had found [Mr. Amerosa] sooner."
"It's ironic that most people that are here don't want to be thanked," said Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey. His agency was the lead law enforcement agency on the scene of the crash.
Lorey said the reception was good for some degree of closure and to honor the Angel Flight program.
Fulton County Civil Defense-Fire Coordinator Allan Polmateer said the crash was "probably one of the biggest events" to occur in the county, but thanks to the public safety teams working together, the search and recovery went smooth.
"It's really good for the volunteers," Rockwood-Garoga-Lassellsville Fire Chief Chief Mark Souza said of Tuesday night's event. "We're not looking for a pat on the back, but they do a lot of work."