Casino Junket Crash

by Bobby Zampetti
Originally Published May 2000

"They were our friends" were the words spoken softly by two teary-eyed flight attendants from Executive Jet Services while standing inside the terminal at Atlantic City International Airport as word began to spread that the charter flight that they had assisted passengers in boarding crashed while attempting to land at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport at Avoca, Pennsylvania.. Seventeen people and two pilots aboard the aircraft died in the crash. All of the passengers were from nearby Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe and Pike Counties. The two pilots resided in New York State. The casino junket crash quickly became the this area's worst aviation accident.

The Crash

The twin-engine turbo-prop airplane was owned by Executive Airlnes located at Farmingdale, New York. The aircraft impacted the ground in a tree covered area adjacent to a carved out pipeline at Bear Creek, Pennsylvania. The aicraft came down about eleven miles short of the airport. Heavily wooded terrain made gaining access to the crash site very difficult for rescuers who responded almost immediatly to the scene. The wooded area where the airplane came down was triangulated at 11 miles S/E of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, approximately 7 miles N/E of Crystal Lake near Mountaintop, and about 5 miles N/W of Francis Walter Dam at White Haven.

The first attempt to land the aircraft using the Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach to the airport resulted in a missed approach when weather conditions in the area deteriorated forcing the pilots to go-around. The ILS is a highly accurate and dependable means of navigating to a runway in IFR conditions. I would theorize that the pilots never established the aircraft back on course for the second attempt at landing because impact with the ground occurred at a location that was not along the normal glidepath for the ILS RWY 4 approach to the airport.

Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) at Avoca were in contact with the pilots of the aircraft throughout the entire landing approaches. The approach controllers at Avoca are highly skilled professionals. They are among the finest any pilot would trust as their eyes in the sky.

Aerial Photos Crash Site/Bob Zampetti