DOVER — The pilot who made a fatal crash landing into a rural area east of Dover Sunday night was identified as Bayhealth orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Clifford H. Turen, the medical center confirmed early Monday afternoon.
Dr. Turen, 55, was piloting a small single-engine Piper Cherokee Arrow II aircraft that plunged to the ground at approximately 7:10 p.m. in an area off White Oak Road, west of Long Point Road and east of Del. 1.
He was the sole occupant of the plane.
Federal Aviation Administration officials were investigating the crash on Monday.
Dr. Turen was returning from a trip from Georgia. Flight records show he was en route to Summit Aviation, north of Middletown, on Sunday night when the plane was diverted. He made a landing in Salisbury, Md., at about 5:42 p.m. before heading north into Delaware.
The flight records do not indicate his destination after leaving Salisbury or when he left the airport there.
Dr. Turen left from Summit Saturday morning on the trip to Georgia.
According to flightaware.com, the plane — with the tail number N49754S — was manufactured in 1970 and Dr. Turen was issued a Certificate of Aircraft Registration in December 2009. The Piper Cherokee Arrow II is a single-engine, fixed-wing aircraft with four seats.
The FAA said Monday afternoon that the National Transportation Safety Board assumed responsibility of the investigation due to the fatality, and would issue a report on the findings.
While saying the Bayhealth family is “saddened” by the loss, a press release covered Mr. Turen’s surgical background, along with a remembrance from a senior administrative official.
“Dr. Turen was an exceptional orthopedic surgeon, a passionate teacher, a strong leader and visionary,” said
Dr. Gary Siegelman, Bayhealth’s senior vice president and chief medical officer. “He was also a friend and a colleague. He will be sorely missed.”
A member of the United States Naval Reserve for 28 years, Dr. Turen was regarded as a veteran pilot.
“He talked quite often about flying and how he enjoyed it,” Dr. Siegelman said. “He had a lot of experience in the military and I know he had done a lot of flying in different capacities in the service.”
Bayhealth officials said Dr. Turen is survived by two sons, a sister and his mother.
Funeral arrangements were not complete as of early Monday afternoon.
Dr. Turen was remembered as a great teacher of his craft, which drew “raves” from residents serving rotations at Bayhealth from the University of Pennsylvania’s program.
“Besides being a talented, bright guy, he had a unique personality,” Dr. Siegelman said. “He had a lot of great stories and was a very interesting person. He made a lot of friends in a very short time.
“From a team perspective, he was very supportive of the people he worked with and had the respect of all.”
Police said Dr. Turen and his plane were located by Little Creek Volunteer Fire Co. members at approximately 9:35 p.m. Sunday.
Earlier in the evening, a Harrington resident said she heard a small plane overhead with a loud-sounding engine that appeared to be struggling to stay in the air.
Kelly Sarro was in the garage of her home near Carpenter Road when she heard a “weird” sounding noise from above and looked out to see a plane flying just above the tree line.
“He came so close to our house and he went right over me,” Ms. Sarro said. “He was going sideways and the engine sounded like it was spitting and sputtering.”
The entire encounter lasted 30 seconds or so, Ms. Sarro said, and left her wondering what the problem was with the plane.
“As low as the plane was, it could have landed in a field just beyond the trees near my house,” Ms. Sarro said. “Instead, it kind of zipped up, turned sideways and disappeared to the northeast after a loud rumble from the engine.”
Ms. Sarro didn’t think much more about the aerial sighting until hearing a news report of a fatal plane crash in Dover.
“I’m wondering now if that’s the plane I saw,” Ms. Sarro said.
Troopers along with officers from the Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Division, and firefighters from Camden, Cheswold, Dover, Frederica, Hartly, Leipsic, and Little Creek conducted grid searches in the area of Bayside Drive (Del. 9) and North Little Creek Road (Del. 8) for the piper plane that vanished off radar after an emergency call was placed to the control tower on Dover Air Force Base.
A recovery team was on the scene Monday, using heavy equipment to move pieces of the plane from the crash site to a trailer parked alongside White Oak Road. The fuselage was about 200 yards from the road.
In Dover since 2011
Bayhealth said Dr. Turen arrived in Dover in 2011 from the Georgia Orthopedic Trauma Institute in Macon, Ga., where he served as director and chair.
Previously, he spent 20 years at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he held the positions of Chief of Orthopedic Trauma and Fellowship Director for the Orthopedic Traumatology Fellowship.
Dr. Turen was also a senior trustee of the AO Foundation — a nonprofit global organization led by surgeons committed to the treatment of trauma and musculoskeletal injuries and education of those principles, Bayhealth said in its press release. He was a member of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
Dr. Turen served as a commander in the Medical Corps of the United States Naval Reserve for 28 years and was selected to the Presidential Medical Support Team for President George H. W. Bush during Dr. Turen’s time on active duty.
“He had a lot of vision on what we could do with the trauma program and orthopedics,” Dr. Siegelman said.
“He wanted to push for swift change, and that’s what you need for someone in that position.”
Bayhealth Orthopedic Surgery employees would contact Dr. Turen’s patients for continuing care options. Dr. Turen routinely took very complex orthopedic trauma cases, officials said.
“I don’t believe you can replace someone with his capacity, but you can move responsibilities to fill in the gaps,” Dr. Siegelman said.
“We met with physician assistants in his group and formed a plan of support for patients through his own team here or at the University of Pennsylvania.”
Carol Harris offered a remembrance in a post on the Delaware State News Facebook page Monday.
“Last year this time, Dr. Turen performed two emergency surgeries on my husband that undoubtedly saved his life,” she wrote. “He was a nice nice man. Shared life stories with us to keep us distracted from the severity of what we were going through.
“He even stopped to pray with us before and after both surgeries. I referred him to everyone that I knew that needed an orthopaedic surgeon. He will definitely be remembered.”
Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296, firstname.lastname@example.org or @DSNAnderson on Twitter.