Pilot In Fatal Crash IDd As Former Navy Aviator

The crash scene on Northcote Drive in Melville Wednesday afternoon.   (Photo by Lauren Peller)

The crash scene on Northcote Drive in Melville Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Lauren Peller)

By Connor Beach & Andrew Wroblewski

A stunt plane crashed in a Melville neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, killing the lone passenger and pilot, officials said.

“My entire house shook,” said Lauren Peller, a Northcote Drive resident who lives just a few feet from the crash site.

Video by eyewitness Joe Monte shows the aircraft spiraling down before crashing.

Melville First Assistant Fire Chief David Kaplan said the crash occurred just before 2 p.m.

“At first we were afraid the aircraft struck a building,” Kaplan said.

When first responders arrived they found the aircraft up in flames in the middle of the quiet residential neighborhood. The pilot was deceased in the aircraft, Kaplan said.

Republic Airport, not far from the crash site, also responded to the scene with a crash truck, which aided firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the fire within a matter of minutes, Kaplan said.

There were no other injuries reported.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the FAA is investigating, but that “the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the cause of the accident.”

The NTSB, which is responsible for civil transportation accident investigations, was en route to the crash site as of Wednesday afternoon to begin the “on scene phase,” according to Public Affairs Officer Terry Williams.

Bergen also confirmed that the aircraft was a SNJ-2 model.

The same model of aircraft is typically flown by the Geico Skytypers Air Show Team.

The Skytypers, which performed over Memorial Day weekend in the Jones Beach Air Show and are scheduled to perform in Maryland this weekend.

Ken Johansen

Ken Johansen

A statement posted to the team's website identified the pilot as Ken Johansen, 52, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

The statement reads, "We lost one of our team members shortly after takeoff from Republic Airport in Farmingdale. Fortunately, there were no injuries on the ground, however, we lost a dear friend."

Johansen was an accomplished aviator, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a commander in the U.S. Navy and a commercial airline pilot. He was also a member of the Skytypers and its air show team for more than a decade.

He's survived by a wife and two children.

"Ken was loved and admired by many in the aviation community, his family and friends, as well as those in his hometown," the statement reads. "Out hearts are broken as we mourn his passing."

Several other local agencies responded to the crash scene, including the East Farmingdale and Plainview fire departments; Suffolk Police Department; Suffolk Emergency Services; State Fire Marshall; and State Police.

Kaplan said the Melville Fire Department remained at the scene for 2.5 hours.

Editor's note: The online version of this story includes additional information that does not appear in the print version in the May 31, 2018 issue of The Long-Islander.