A small plane that crashed in Montville earlier this month, injuring three people, was on its way to carry out a unique mission â€” dropping candy from above onto excited kids attending a Waldo County summer camp.
The candy drop is a 40-year-old tradition, according to Peter Kassen, who owns and runs Hidden Valley camp along with his wife, Meg Kassen. At the time of the July 3 plane crash, the fixed-wing, single-engine Cessna was approaching the large field where campers gather to collect the candy that is dropped out of the plane. The plane, owned by Kenneth Morgan of Norridgewock, crashed into trees after an aerodynamic stall, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and was destroyed.
Kassen said that because the camp is in a valley and the plane came down over a hillside, no campers or others at the camp witnessed or heard the plane crash. The pilot and two passengers, both of whom are camp staff members, were taken to Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast after the accident.
â€œAll three were released that evening,â€ Kassen said. â€œCamp staff are back at work.â€
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According to the campâ€™s social media accounts, the candy drop is something that kids attending the international summer camp look forward to eagerly. A photograph posted on Instagram a few days before the plane crash shows 11 smiling campers lying on piles of candy.
But one aviation safety whistle blower, Robert Katz of Dallas, Texas, pays attention to airplane crashes, especially those that involve a possible risk to public safety. Katz is a commercial pilot who spends his free time following up on incidents such as the one in Montville. He was surprised to hear that the plane likely was being used to drop candy onto a field.
â€œIt strikes me as a careless and reckless use of an airplane,â€ the Texas pilot said. â€œI also question, speculating out loud, if the parents of these children are aware of whatâ€™s going on at this camp.â€
The Maine crash will be investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, as is standard practice, according to a press release issued after the crash by the Waldo County Sheriffâ€™s Office.
Kassen said that the tradition will continue, although with a major modification.
â€œWe have adjusted the tradition for this summer and future summers,â€ he wrote. â€œNo aircraft will be involved.â€