SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WIVB) — Two men died in a helicopter crash in central Pennsylvania on their way back to Buffalo.
The helicopter, which was coming from Washington D.C., was piloted by 58-year-old Mark Croce. Michael Capriotto, 63, was the passenger. The incident happened around 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Silver Spring Township.
Both men resided in Orchard Park.
Croce was a longtime and well-known developer. He owned a number of local businesses, such as Buffalo Chophouse, the Curtiss Hotel, Statler City and the building that houses Dinosaur BBQ.
Capriotto also owns a number of businesses, including the Kwik Fill in Orchard Park, where his son has served as a cashier for many years.
Croce was the pilot on this one-day trip to the Baltimore and Washington area. It was not initially known what the purpose of the trip was.
The weather is not believed a factor in the crash, but the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
Croce was a licensed pilot who flew the Robinson R66 out of Prior Aviaton in Cheektowaga several days this week. The craft was purchased by Croce’s company, Redmark Capital.
The helicopter left Buffalo just after noon Thursday and just after 2 p.m., landed at Bay Bridge Airport on Kent Island, Maryland. A man at that airport tells News 4 that Croce asked him if they had jet fuel, but they did not so he indicated he may go to Martin State Airport in Baltimore later.
Just before 7 p.m., the Robinson R66 landed at Martin State Airport for about an hour, then departed at 7:59 p.m. Thursday. According to Flightaware24.com, the flight path indicated he was headed toward Harrisburg’s Airport, but 30 minutes after he took off from Baltimore, the aircraft crashed.
The NTSB said that the Federal Aviation Administration reported to them that there was no distress call from the pilot.
No one on the ground was injured.
“Mark was a visionary,” recalled State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who was a friend of Croce’s.
Peoples-Stokes said the void created by Croce’s loss will be filled by his legacy, which showed what people can do with vigor and vision.
“He saw empty buildings that could be revived and turned them back to life,” the assemblywoman added. “He did that not just with one building in Downtown Buffalo but with several. I think his vision speaks volumes to what the potential is for our community when people step up with an idea that they see to fruition.
“Mark did that.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown also spoke on the tragedy, saying:
“I am deeply saddened by the sudden and tragic passing of my dear friend Mark Croce.
Mark was a big part of our downtown resurgence, adding jobs for residents and creating destinations that have brought many visitors to the City of Buffalo.”Statement from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown
Orchard Park Mayor Jo Ann Litwin Clinton says Capriotto, who served as a village trustee, was a “pillar of the community.”
More public figures, such as Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, also made statements following the deaths of the businessmen.
“I’m shocked and very saddened to wake up to the sad news of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Mark Croce and Michael Capriotto,” Poloncarz said. “Mark was a very experienced pilot and loved traveling in his helicopter. My deepest condolences go out to both families at this sad time.”
“Mark Croce believed in the resurgence and potential of Buffalo when not many others did,” Mychajliw said. “Mark took a chance on developing in Buffalo, and in doing so, he inspired others to follow suit. Mark was the spark, the catalyst, of our downtown core’s rebirth.”
More reactions to the deaths of Croce and Capriotto can be found here.