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N.H. pilot pleads guilty in Orange crash

ORANGE — The New Hampshire man piloting the small plane that crashed on New Year’s Day in 2011, killing his daughter, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of manslaughter in connection with her death.

Franklin Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini accepted the plea agreement reached between the defense and prosecution and sentenced Steven T. Fay, 58, of Hillsborough, N.H., to just over a year of probation.

Fay was behind the controls of the twin-engine Cessna 310F that crashed on Jan. 1, 2011 near Orange Municipal Airport, killing Jessica L. Malin, 35, also of Hillsborough and formerly of Greenfield.

The plane crashed about an hour and a half after sunset in a wooded area about 400 yards short of the touch down zone at Orange Municipal Airport after hitting several trees on the descent to the runway, according to the accident report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Fay told authorities he had taken off from Keene, N.H., approximately 4:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day and decided to practice touch-and-go landings at the Orange airport before returning to Keene.

Licensed to fly single-engine aircraft and with about 500 hours of documented flight time, Fay had 50 hours of training time in multi-engine aircraft but was not licensed to fly the plane without an instructor, according to the NTSB.

The Northwestern District Attorney’s office charged Fay with “unintentionally and unlawfully” causing Malin’s death by means of “wanton or reckless conduct.”

Agostini entered a plea of not guilty on Fay’s behalf at his February arraignment, at which friends argued that he had already suffered enough in the loss of his daughter.

First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said at the time that he recognized the tragic component to the case but Fay’s choice had endangered not only his and his daughter’s lives but those of anyone on the ground.

“The Commonwealth never intended to seek incarceration in this case,” Gagne said in a statement released this following the sentencing this week. “While we believed it was important to hold Mr. Fay legally responsible for the crash that claimed Ms. Malin’s life, we also recognize that he will live with this tragedy for the rest of his life, regardless of what happened in court. Fortunately, Mr. Fay’s conduct did not cause harm to anyone on the ground who happened to be in his flight path that day.”

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony carrying a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in state prison, according to the release from DA’s office spokeswoman Mare Carey.

Attorneys from both sides recommended, and Agostini ordered, that Fay be placed on unsupervised probation until Dec. 31, 2013, with the special conditions that he is prohibited from operating any aircraft, cannot seek reinstatement of his pilot’s license and must pay $2,300 restitution to a Mary Kolker, the victim’s mother.

A pretrial conference had been scheduled for January.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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