PORTLAND – The pilot of a float plane that crashed Sept. 14 near Greenville forgot to flip a switch from an empty fuel tank to a full one, according to a federal investigator. Three West Paris men died in the fiery wreck.

It was the second time Richard Dill, 32, of Greenville walked away from a crash after mismanaging the fuel supply, according to published reports.

The last time was in March 1996 when he was flying three S.D. Warren paper company representatives on an aerial survey of timber property in Shirley.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited pilot error as the cause of the September crash that killed former Selectman Vernon Inman, Selectman Harlan Abbott and William Aridas. Inman died at the scene, while Abbott and Aridas suffered extensive burns and died later at Boston hospitals.

The three were in a party of six West Paris men who had rented a cabin on Horseshoe Pond and arrived Sept. 12 by air. The cabin is owned by the Folsom family, which operates Folsom’s Air Service on Moosehead Lake in Greenville, the company Dill works for.

According to the NTSB, Dill flew the first three fishermen, Walter Inman, Randy Jones, 40, and Matt Jones, 9, from Horseshoe Pond back to Moosehead on Sept. 14 and then returned for Inman, Abbott and Aridas in the afternoon.

For the second trip he departed Moosehead with four gallons of gas in the left wing and 10 in the right, with the fuel selector positioned on the left tank, the report said. After he landed on Horseshoe Pond, Dill said “he forgot to move the fuel selector to the right tank,” according to the report.

The three fishermen boarded and Dill took off. When he was about 200 feet above the ground the engine lost all power and he switched to the right fuel tank, the report said. As the plane began to strike trees, the engine regained power, but the plane hit the ground and flipped over, the report stated.

Dill got out and helped one passenger, but a fire erupted and he was unable to assist others, the report states. The cockpit and fuselage were destroyed by flames.

Dill sustained burns on his hands and arms.

“The pilot further stated that he mismanaged the fuel supply,” the NTSB report said.

In the Shirley crash, according to an NTSB report, the pilot received minor injuries and the three passengers were not hurt when the Cessna hit trees during a forced landing. In that crash, the NTSB determined the probable cause was “the pilot’s fuel mismanagement and improper use of the fuel selector valve, which resulted in fuel starvation.”

Staff Writer Mary Delamater contributed to this report.

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