Inquirer photographer finds huge loss at crash of small and fragile plane

Every Monday, we present a gallery of pictures of the week just passed, taken by our staff photojournalists — and tell you the story behind one of them. This week Jessica Griffin talks about covering a fatal plane crash in Upper Moreland.

A piece of the aircraft is lifted off the ground Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 as officials investigate the crash in a residential neighborhood in Upper Moreland the day before. Three members of a family died in the crash. No one on the ground was injured.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
A piece of the aircraft is lifted off the ground Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 as officials investigate the crash in a residential neighborhood in Upper Moreland the day before. Three members of a family died in the crash. No one on the ground was injured.

In her 19 years as a photojournalist, Griffin had not covered a plane crash until last week. When she saw the first alert about it, she thought maybe a pilot had to make an emergency landing on a street.

Instead, the small plane crashed Thursday morning in the backyards of homes in Upper Moreland Township. All three people on board the private plane - two doctors and their daughter - were killed. Griffin arrived soon after frantic residents reported the crash, but police blocked off local roads and she didn’t have a good vantage point of the plane.

“The plane landed squarely in someone’s backyard,” she said. In fact, debris was spread over four yards along Minnie Lane. “It was on the ground surrounded by trees, so you couldn’t see that much.”

She returned the next day finding the roads were open again, but the plane was still in the woods. Then, as Griffin was photographing investigators along the street, the sound of a chainsaw tipped her off that something was about to happen. “Oh, they might lift the plane up,” she realized.

They did just that, moving large pieces of the Beechcraft Bonanza F33A to a more open area adjacent to the trees. Griffin’s pictures showed the size and state of the plane.

“I was surprised by how small and fragile it looked,” she said.

Griffin didn’t know all the details of the crash as she drove there the first time, but in the days since, the tragedy of the situation - the couple’s other daughter, who was not on the plane – has weighed on her. She can’t stop thinking about “the devastation caused by losing one’s entire immediate family and being all alone.”

» SEE MORE: Last week’s staff photo gallery and the staff photography page

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