Grand Isle County Sheriff Ray Allen says he is waiting for a Federal Aviation Administration investigation to dictate whether federal investigators want the state of Vermont to press charges against two off-duty Air National Guardsmen.
Sheriff Allen says 30 people, or more, were dispatched to Savage Island in Grand Isle County Monday after reports of a plane crash.
Allen says the response effort involved multiple marine vessels, volunteer firefighters and a U.S. Customs & Border Protection helicopter. The island is not accessible by any roadway.
“The volunteers, they’re taking time away from their families, they’re volunteering their time to do out,” said Sheriff Allen.
When they got there, they found a destroyed Piper PA-11. Nobody was with the plane.
“Rather surprised that nobody had reported the incident,” said Sheriff Allen. “It was probably about 6 hours prior when the crash actually occurred. The pilot or anybody, never reported it to the proper authorities as required to do so.”
Sheriff Allen believes the plane crashed around noon Monday.
The Vermont Air National Guard confirmed earlier this week, two airmen were on board.
Sheriff Allen told Local 22/Local 44 News the pilot is John Rahill.
In an email Friday requesting information on Rahill’s rank, Guard spokesperson Capt. Tracy Morris responded: “We don’t release information on members without their consent. It’s for their own safety and operational security.”
Sheriff Allen says the two Guardsmen were taken off the island by boat and brought back to the Burlington International Airport by the island’s caretaker.
As for the crash, pilots are required to immediately contact the National Transportation Safety Board following a crash.
NTSB Investigator Adam Gerhardt says the Board was notified about the incident but he is unsure of the timeline, saying “We are aware and we are investigating.”
“What is your reaction when you hear that they are Air National Guardsmen?” asked Local 22/Local44 News’ Staci DaSilva to Sheriff Ray Allen.
“A little surprised,” he responded. “I know the Guard, federal pilots, have very strict regulations and are up to date on all the requirements of the FAA and National Traffic Safety Bureau. I was stunned that they didn’t ever notify anybody of the incident.”
Sheriff Allen says the case, for now, is in the hands of the FAA.
“We’re following the investigation out of the FAA and the NTSB and waiting to hear from them what they’re going to do be doing or if they want to see any charges from the state of Vermont,” he said.
Major Chris Gookin with the Vermont National Guard says the Guard has not been contacted, at this time, by the FAA.
In a statement sent Tuesday, Major Gookin wrote: “We appreciate the concern from the community and are happy that neither of our Airmen were injured and are currently back at work.
Due to the ongoing FAA investigation into this matter, we have no further details to release at this time.”