UMaine: 3 plane crash victims were frat brothers

Associated Press Modified: November 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm •  Published: November 17, 2012
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OWLS HEAD, Maine (AP) — A small plane that spiraled downward and burst into flames after striking a pickup truck shortly before takeoff was carrying two University of Maine students and one alumnus, all of whom died in the crash, the school said Saturday.

The school and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity said the victims of Friday night's crash were 22-year-old David Cheney, of Beverly, Mass.; 24-year-old Marcelo Rugini, an exchange student from Brazil; and 24-year-old William "B.J." Hannigan III, of South Portland.

All three were members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Cheney was the fraternity's president.

"UMaine's Greek and international student communities are mourning the loss of three of their own, but they are not alone in their grief," said Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. "Losing these three young men — David, Marcelo and B.J. — 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."

The Cessna 172 was heading north on the Knox County Regional Airport runway early Friday night when it struck the truck, which was authorized to be on airport grounds, Knox County Chief Deputy Sheriff Tim Carroll said. The plane continued to climb and as it turned to the east, it dived about 200 to 300 yards into the thick woods and immediately burst into flames, the sheriff's office said.

The university said DNA tests to confirm the identities aren't expected until Wednesday.

One fraternity brother, senior Lucas Bernardi, told the Bangor Daily News that the three had flown out of Bangor International Airport earlier in the day and then toward Lincoln County over a farm where one of the victims had worked over the summer. He said one of the victims had just gotten his pilot's license and wanted to take his friends for a fun ride.

"It wasn't the first time they had been flying," Bernardi told the newspaper. "I was supposed to go with them, but I didn't."

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