Corrected: South Portland pilot killed in N.H. crash

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Federal officials said it could take months to determine what caused the plane crash that killed a 50-year-old South Portland pilot.

Stephen D. Cardelli Jr. was killed when his single-engine Cessna 177 crashed shortly after take-off from New Hampshire’s Laconia Airport on June 13, en route to Portland.
A funeral was held June 19 at the Green Memorial Church on Sheridan Street in Portland.

Detective Eric Bredbury of the Gilford, N.H., Police Department said the crash was reported at 4:04 p.m. along Route 3, about a mile from the airport. Gilford said the plane struck two trees near the Margate Resort, 81 Lake St., before crashing near a parking lot. 

“The tail of the plane came to rest on the car of one of the customers (with) minimal damage,” Bredbury said. “Nobody was injured other than the pilot.” 

According to an obituary from Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, Cardelli was born July 4, 1958, and was a single father who raised a 25-year-old daughter. He was described as an accomplished chef and a champion boxer, who volunteered as a referee for the Portland Boxing Club.

“When he was excited, he was like a 5-year-old boy,” the obituary said, “but when he was angry, he had the force of a level 5 hurricane.”

Cardelli was described as an accomplished pilot who had successfully landed a disabled aircraft before, saving his passengers. He had just purchased the Cessna he was flying at the time of the June 13 crash. His obituary said New Hampshire State Police and witnesses described Cardelli as a hero for successfully navigating the crippled plane away from buildings and pedestrians. 

The fact that nobody other than Cardelli was injured is even more miraculous, since the crash happened at a busy resort on Lake Winnipesaukee and coincided with the start of the 84th Laconia Motorcycle Week, an event that attracts thousands of bikers from across the country.

An investigation into the crash is being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

NTSB Investigator Shawn Etcher said his agency is in the process of gathering evidence, including the pieces of the plane. He said it would take six months to a year for the agency to determine a cause.

Etcher said the FAA is responsible for releasing a toxicology test performed on Cardelli. No one at the FAA could be immediately reached for information about the test, which is standard procedure.

The New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Officer said Cardelli’s death was caused by head and chest injuries.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or
This story was corrected on June 19 to remove information provided by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency that confused Stephen D. Cardelli Jr. with his father, Stephen D. Cardelli Sr. The elder Cardelli was convicted in 1993 on charges of conspiring to possess cocaine with intent to distribute.