Authorities think birds, not a plane, was cause for lost radar target


It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Nope. It was most likely a bird – a whole flock of them.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed late Thursday morning that while T.F. Green Airport reported that the control tower lost track of a small blip on radar at about 300 feet, a two-and-a-half-hour search of the Bay indicated there wasn’t a plane crash.

According to Edmund Armstrong, chief of the Warwick Fire Department, birds may have created the issue.

“As far as we know, it was birds,” he said during a brief phone interview Friday. “FAA has not released any information to me in regards to what it was. They are doing their own investigation as to what it was.”

Initially, it was speculated that a small plane crashed into the water around 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

Warwick police set up a command post at the Oakland Beach seawall, while the Coast Guard, Marine Task Force and other agencies were involved in the search.

While rescue boats searched the water, a helicopter hovered above.

Additionally, concerned citizens lined the beach, some of them with police scanners, others with binoculars. Many were skeptical of a crash.

“There should have been at least 50 calls by now,” said Dennis McLaughlin. “There are always eyes on this Bay – there’s always someone sitting out on the beach, so I don’t think it went down here. There’s no debris.”

Some thought they saw something “shiny” in the water but also acknowledged they might be mistaken.

“If you look straight out to that black buoy, you catch a shiny glimpse,” Michael Keenan said. “But it could just be a seagull.”

Keenan, who had a handheld police scanner, said when it was first reported, a caller claimed they saw the splash.

“The last known location would have put it over Greenwich Bay,” he said. “But there are so many houses, you figure there would have been more than one phone call.”

Other residents, including George Clesos, the custodian for JONAH, along with Emanuel Simas, looked out on the water with binoculars.

“We don’t see anything,” they agreed.

Still, ambulances and officials stayed posted along a portion of the seawall.

“They’ve been doing this all morning,” Susan Grondin said. “I’ve been hearing them for the last hour.”

Later Thursday afternoon, a small plane crashed near a section of Route 93 North in Hooksett, N.H. Herman and Doris Hassinger, both 83 and both of Block Island, were killed in the crash. The plane was registered to Herman Hassinger. The FAA said the radar blip reported by T.F. Green earlier Thursday morning could have been a small craft that descended below the altitude covered by the tower’s radar. Additionally, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) confirmed that the Hassingers had flown their plane out of Block Island at some point Thursday, though the crash took place after they departed from a point in New Hampshire. However, neither RIAC nor the FAA could confirm the two incidents were related. The FAA said the investigation of the New Hampshire plane crash is ongoing. (With reports from Kim Kalunian)


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