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Police identify pilot killed in Falmouth plane crash, wife hospitalized with serious injuries

Carl Willis and his wife were returning from a short trip to Westfield.

The pilot of a small plane that crashed Friday afternoon in Falmouth after a brief midday flight to Westfield and back died and his wife, who was with him, was hospitalized with serious injuries, State Police said Saturday.

The two were identified Saturday afternoon as Carl Willis, 83, and Candace “Candy” Oldham, 70, of Falmouth, according to Massachusetts State Police spokesman Dave Procopio.

Willis was flying the plane back to Falmouth when the red single-engine aircraft crashed in a grassy area just short of the northeast side of Runway 25 at the Falmouth Airpark, Procopio said.

Willis was taken to Falmouth Hospital, where he was pronounced dead late Friday afternoon. Oldham, who sustained serious injuries, was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, Procopio said in a text to the Globe.

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The couple had flown to Westfield from Falmouth for a short trip along with several other couples who each flew their own planes, according to Procopio.

The plane, a Mooney M20J, was registered to Oldham, according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Online flight records report that the plane took off from Falmouth Airpark just after 11 a.m. Friday, landing at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport near Springfield shortly before noon. The plane then departed from Westfield at 2:22 p.m., crashing in Falmouth at around 3:10 p.m.

Unlike a traditional airport, the Airpark is a grassy strip of land behind several homes, with taxiways behind each house. The couple lived at 30 Smilin Jack Lane next to the Airpark, and both were active in the Falmouth Airpark Homeowners’ Association.

Zoe Miller, one of Oldham and Willis’ neighbors, said the neighborhood surrounding the airfield is a close-knit community, largely consisting of retirees with a passion for aviation.

“All the houses used to have a hangar attached, and many of them still do,” she said on Saturday. “But there are events like book clubs and things like that... I know there’s always a ton of people on our street on a Tuesday afternoon.”

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Miller said she often saw “Carl and Candy,” as they were affectionately known, strolling through the neighborhood, and that the couple was kind and “always very friendly.”

“I always thought it was really sweet to see them walking down the street together — every day they would go on a walk,” Miller said. “It’s so heartbreaking that he’s gone, I just really feel for Candy.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating the crash, along with the National Transportation Safety Board, who sent an investigator to the site Saturday to document the scene and examine the aircraft, according to Safety Board spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris.

Photos taken by Falmouth Fire Department show the plane’s cockpit completely destroyed by the crash.

Fire Chief Timothy Smith told WCVB-TV Friday that the two people were trapped on board and had to be removed by first responders. Smith said the plane did not catch fire, though firefighters did respond to a fuel leak at the scene.

The investigation will involve requesting radar data, weather information, maintenance records, and the pilot’s medical records, Gabris said in an e-mail Saturday.

Willis has maintained his pilot’s license for personal use since 2001 and was most recently re-certified in 2019, according to FAA records.

The preliminary report, which includes all information learned to date, is expected to be published 15 days after the accident, Gabris wrote, adding that “at this early stage of an investigation, NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available.”

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“Investigations involving fatalities... take between 12 and 24 months to complete,” she said.

Globe correspondent Camilo Fonesca contributed to this report.


Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.