An investigation is continuing into what caused a small plane to crash on takeoff Saturday at a private field in Esperance.
Police said only the pilot survived, suffering burns to his hands and face while trying to help three others-believed to be another man and two women-still in the wreckage.
Investigators from the National Traffic Safety Board have been investigating the scene at the private airfield and hanger called Hogan Airport on Brandon Road, off Route 30A near the Schenectady and Montgomery County lines.
Police have not released the names of either the pilot or the deceased, but said they are believed to be from Connecticut.
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said the four were among the last to leave a gathering of family and friends near the field; most of those who had also flown in in their own small planes had already left, but several watched as the plane gained altitude, but never cleared the trees.
"It just never gained altitude," Sheriff Desmond said," and ended up crashing about 1,000 feet away in a heavily wooded, swampy area, spewing parts as it went.
The crash occurred at about 6:45pm; a plume of black smoke from the burning plane could be seen from 30 miles away.
Responding to the scene, Sheriff Desmond said he heard the man calling, but was unable to reach him in his vehicle; volunteers from local fire departments and rescue squads used RTVs and similar vehicles to get to the scene.
County Coroner Matt Coltrain pronounced the three dead at the scene while the man was airlifted first to Albany Medical Center and then the Westchester Medical Center's burn unit for treatment.
The plane is a Piper PA-28, but State Police, who are handling the investigation, would release few other details.
A preliminary NTSB report could take weeks and a final one, a year or longer.