Weekend plane mishap in Morristown: A Sweet 16 party ‘they’ll never forget’

This Beechcraft BE20 plane skidded off a runway at Morristown Airport on Jan. 4, 2020. No injuries were reported.


Some teens from upstate New York will have plenty to talk about in school this week.

Seven of them were aboard the twin-prop plane that skidded off a runway at Morristown Airport on Saturday afternoon.  Their destination was a Sweet Sixteen birthday party in New York City.

Fortunately, everyone made it to the party without any injuries, according to a spokesman.

“Not even a bruise. It’s quite remarkable. We’re thankful for that, of course,” said Dave Shields, safety director for the LC Whitford Co Inc., a Wellsville, NY, bridge construction company that owns the Beechcraft BE20 aircraft.

“The girls had a pretty good weekend– a weekend they’ll never forget.”

The plane went off runway 23 into a grassy area after landing at the airport at 12:14 pm on Jan. 4, 2020, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the incident with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Ellie Whitford, the daughter of company president Brad Whitford, was celebrating her 16th birthday. She was flying with her girlfriends and her mother, Laura Whitford. Company pilot John Terrasi was at the controls, for a total of nine on board, Shields said.

Bad weather prevented the plane from landing at Teterboro Airport; after circling for about an hour, the flight was diverted to Morristown, Shields said.

The aircraft overshot the runway by about 25 feet, Shields said.

“The pilot said the weather was foul, very cloudy. Visibility dissipated as he approached the runway.”

Terrasi has an “excellent safety record,” and the aircraft has had no other incidents since the company bought it about four years ago, Shields said. The landing gear sustained minor damage on Saturday, he said.

While the company welcomes the investigation by federal aviation officials, Shields said, “we have a feeling this was a routine mishap.”

Firefighters from Morristown, Morris Township and Cedar Knolls responded to the initial alarm.

Wellsville is about 60 miles south of Buffalo, near the New York/Pennsylvania border. The LC Whitford Co. builds, maintains and repairs bridges on highways and railroads, and has done some railroad projects in New Jersey, Shields said.

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