BRIGHTON — Members of American Legion Post 80 and Island Pond history buffs are mourning the loss of one of their own, saying that former Legion Commander Mark Biron of Brighton was believed to be the pilot who died in a small plane crash Saturday afternoon near John H. Boylan State Airport in Brighton.
Vermont State Police have not officially released the name of the dead pilot, awaiting results of an autopsy.
Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday morning pored through the burned wreckage of the small single-engine plane within sight of Route 105.
At about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, the plane crashed in a fireball 100 feet off the end of the runway at the John H. Boylan State Airport east of Island Pond village, Vermont State Police said. Brighton firefighters and state police arrived to find burned wreckage and the pilot deceased, police said.
Investigators had made no determination about the cause of the crash as of noon Sunday, according to state police.
The body of the victim was transported to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy to positively identify the remains and determine cause and manner of death, state police said.
While investigators assisted, clean-up crews on Sunday morning cut the metal frame of the plane into sections. They used an excavator to lift the twisted skeleton sections into trucks and trailers for transportation and further investigation. State police did not say where the plane wreckage was being taken.
Local Legion members and residents of the close-knit village of Island Pond in the center of Brighton town began to hear Saturday that Biron was the pilot of the plane who died in the crash.
Post Commander Jim “Deke” Worth and Auxiliary President Doris Boisvert said Sunday that they had heard about the crash from Biron’s family and friends.
Worth said friends were concerned that it might have been Biron’s plane that crashed since Biron’s pickup truck was parked at the grass runway airport near his hangar.
A family member and a friend had stayed overnight Saturday with Biron’s wife Sharon, Worth said. Worth and Boisvert expressed their sorrow for her and for Biron’s elderly father Clifford who lives alone in the village.
Biron stopped in to see and help his father every day, Worth said.
“He was very well liked among community leaders and members of the community,” he said of Biron.
“He was more than willing to help anyone.”
Biron is a retired U.S. military officer who performed Taps at most local military funerals, Worth said. The local Legion is preparing for a military funeral for Biron with another member playing Taps for Biron, he added.
Biron, an Island Pond native, son of Clifford and the late Pauline Biron, had served about 30 years as an officer in the military, some in Alaska, Worth said.
Worth, Boisvert and others called Biron who with wife Sharon made it their mission to reinvigorate the Island Pond Historical Society.
Biron was “very instrumental” in purchasing the former Ted’s Market as the new home of the Island Pond Historical Society.
The town’s historical documents and mementos had kept in the second story of the former train station and were not easily accessible or properly displayed.
“Nobody ever went there,” Boisvert said.
“They have both worked day and night to get things done” and get everything moved, Worth said.
“That was a very big boost” for the historical society, Worth said.
Scott Wheeler, publisher of Vermont’s Northland Journal, said he spoke with Biron’s wife about his death. Wheeler called Biron’s death a “tragic loss” to his family and friends but also to the community.
“He dedicated his life to serve whether to the military or to Island Pond,” Wheeler said, calling Biron a humble man.
Wheeler spoke at the Island Pond Historical Society’s annual meeting in early August.
“He was one of the keepers of Island Pond history,” Wheeler said.
“Preserving the history of Island Pond was more than just a mission, it was a passion.”
They gave so much despite their own recent hardship – having lost their home last year to a fire, Worth said. They had just moved into their new home several months ago, he said.
Said Wheeler: “I know the people of Island Pond will rally around Sharon and the family.”