Wreckage removed from national park, pilot identified after fatal plane crash

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SNP plane crash recovery
A helicopter prepares to lift debris from a Sept. 2 plane crash site near mile 33 along Skykline Drive on Monday, Sept. 24. ~ Photo provided by Shenandoah National Park

~ PVN staff report

LURAY — On Monday, recovery crews hiked into an area near the Buck Hollow and Buck Ridge trails of Shenandoah National Park in western Rappahannock County to remove debris from a fatal plane crash on Sept. 2.

The crews on the ground assisted a helicopter in the arial removal of each piece of the wreckage that has been located.

The Communications Center at the national park received a call at 11:14 a.m. on Sept. 2 reporting wreckage from a Piper PA-20 airplane had been found about 0.75 mile from Skyline Drive down the Buck Hollow Trail. The plane reportedly landed in trees about a mile from Skyline Drive. The body of an adult male was found in the wreckage.

The pilot — the only passenger on the plane — has been identified as 35-year-old Nicolas Hellewell from San Luis Obispo, California.

The Buck Hollow Trail (including the parking areas on Route 211 and the Meadow Springs parking area on Skyline Drive at mile 33.5) and the Buck Ridge Trail were closed earlier this month until further notice  to keep the site secure and minimize disturbance while an investigation takes place and the wreckage is removed.

Although the Hazel Mountain Trail and the Meadow Spring Trail (which leads to the Appalachian Trail and the summit of Mary’s Rock) are not closed, there will be no access to these trials from the Meadow Spring parking area.

The Virginia State Police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are assisting with the incident, which remains under investigation.  

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