Posted at: 06/14/2013 12:07 AM
By: Steve Flamisch
EPHRATA -- Forest rangers and volunteer firefighters combed the land. Divers searched the pond where most of the plane was found. A State Police helicopter peered down from above.
For close to three weeks, searchers tried in vain to find the body of missing plane crash victim Frank Amerosa. What no one realized is that his remains lay behind a discarded freezer, about 100 yards from Granny's Ice Cream Shanty on Route 29.
"It was really scary because we never had any idea that it was this close," Anna Sweet, who works at the ice cream stand, told NewsChannel 13. "There were search teams and stuff, and we thought it was going to be across the road or back in the woods."
Shortly after the May 24 crash, the freezer looked to be "squashed" as if something had landed on top of it, according to Tom Dudley, who co-owns the ice cream stand and the adjacent Royal Mountain Campsite.
Over time, Dudley began to notice an odor. He climbed a ladder to inspect the top of his carport and shed, to see if the body had landed there. He saw nothing.
Neither Dudley nor the trained searchers looked behind the freezer. Then, on Wednesday, one of his helpers went to move the freezer and spotted the remains.
"I just wish we had looked at the freezer sooner," Dudley said.
Authorities confirmed the remains are those of Amerosa, a brain cancer patient from Utica who was killed along with his wife, Evelyn Amerosa, 58, and volunteer pilot John Campbell, 70, when their Angel Flight broke apart in mid-air and fell from the sky while returning from a Boston Hospital. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The freezer was surrounded by other scrap metal bound for the dump, nowhere near the ice cream. After authorities removed Amerosa's remains, Dudley buried the freezer behind his property.
A DEC spokeswoman did not return a late phone call asking why forest rangers had not looked behind the freezer.