RHS teacher killed in plane crash

By Denise Civiletti

Riverhead High School teacher Vincent Nasta was killed in a plane crash Sunday afternoon during an air show at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in upstate New York.

Mr. Nasta, a licensed pilot since 1985 and a commercial flight instructor, often performed in air shows at the Rhinebeck aviation museum on weekends.

The incident occurred Sunday at about 4 p.m., according to the Duchess County Sheriff's office, when the replica World War I era French biplane he was piloting in a mock dogfight went down near the Aerodrome. An eyewitness at the show reported that the plane went into a spin and crashed behind some trees beyond the performance area, according to The Poughkeepsie Journal.

Mr. Nasta, 46, was a popular art teacher at the high school, where he taught computer graphics and advanced placement studio art since 1991.

"This is great loss for Riverhead High School," Riverhead schools superintendent Diane Scricca said in an interview Monday morning. "Mr. Nasta was a real gem, a consummate professional, dedicated to his kids, believing that every kid can achieve at a high level and putting the effort behind it to get it done," she said. "We at Riverhead mourn his loss and our condolences go to his family."

Students, alumni, teachers and administrators expressed their shock and grief this week, erecting a makeshift memorial in front of the high school on Harrison Avenue, and posting statements on a Facebook site created "in memory of Vincent Nasta" by a student at the school. (See separate story, page 6.)

Mr. Nasta, who grew up in Shirley and graduated from William Floyd High School in 1978, lived in Wading River for the past 13 years with his wife, Kathleen, who was his high school sweetheart. He also leaves behind his parents, Vincent and Carol Nasta of Shirley, and three brothers. The family will receive visitors at Reginald H. Tuthill Funeral Home in Riverhead this weekend. (See page 11for a complete obituary.)

In an article in The News-Review last month about teachers' unusual summer jobs, Mr. Nasta spoke of his love of aviation and his passion for life.

"In aviation you really have to do things well. 'Almost' is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades," Mr. Nasta said. "I love doing this stuff and I love teaching. One of the things I tell the kids is, find something you love to do and be passionate about it. Practice at it and try to be good at it. Don't be a spectator."

The cause of the crash is under investigation, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said Monday.

The plane being flown by Mr. Nasta during the finale at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was a replica, built in 1997, of a 1917 Nieuport 24BIS, a single engine biplane built and used by France during World War I. It was owned by Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Air Shows, which acquired the craft in a trade with the Aviation Heritage Center in New Zealand, according to the aerodrome's Web site. The current FAA airworthiness certificate for the plane was issued on May 29.

Deputies from the Duchess County Sheriff's office, state police officers and members of the Rhinebeck Fire Department responded to reports of a plane crash in the final moments of Sunday's air show. They arrived on the scene, approximately 1,000 feet southeast of the aerodrome's runway, to find the burning wreckage of the plane in a heavily wooded parcel of property owned by the Town of Rhinebeck, according to a press release issued Monday by the sheriff's office. Mr. Nasta was the sole occupant of the plane.

This was the first fatality associated with a crash at one of the air shows produced weekly by the aviation museum, according to The Aerodrome Forum, a Web site dedicated to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, now in its 49th season.

"Vinny Nasta had experience flying both restored originals and replica Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome airplanes like the Nieuport," Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Air Shows president Hugh Schoelzel said in statement. "He was a great pilot who flew in air shows throughout the region and he was a certified commercial flight instructor in addition to his work with Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome," the statement said.