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Mon, Jul 18, 2005

Teens Describe Drunken Joyride

Thrills Turned To Chills

The teenagers along for the ride in the aircraft allegedly taken from the Danbury Municipal Airport last month by Philippe Patricio have been identified, and told their stories to the police. Andrew Mentch and Thomas Cascio III, both 16, had agreed to go for a ride with Patricio.

"He said we were running out of fuel," Mentch told police, according to The News-Times. "There was nothing basically we could do. I was thinking that I'm going to die."

Police identified Mentch and Cascio on Thursday as the riders. The two teens told police about their harrowing adventure which were detailed on arrest warrant affidavits.

Patricio told police he and the teens "had been drinking beer and hanging out" at Cascio's home. At one point, Cascio said that Patricio asked if they wanted to take a plane ride.

Patricio told the 16-year-olds he was "all right to fly a plane," despite his drinking, according to court documents.

"We got in Philippe's car and he drove to Danbury Airport," Mentch told police, in the affidavit. "To get in we jumped the fence on the left side (of) the sliding gate."

Danbury police found a broken beer bottle next to the gate when they arrived at the Danbury airport, and a shoe print on the top of the electric box that operates the gate.

"We then walked to the Cessna and did a pre-flight check," Mentch said. "Philippe stuck his fingers in the gas tank to check how much fuel there was. He said there was enough fuel. He opened the door of the airplane without a key. We got in, Philippe, Tom and I, and Philippe started the plane. He checked the lights. They all worked fine and he flew off."

Patricio allegedly took the plane from Arrow Aviation. Arrow owner Joan Sherwood told police Patricio had flown a few times with Arrow instructors, but was not a regular customer or student, according to the affidavit.

Sherwood told police she had both sets of keys to the Cessna. Because the planes was old, it could possibly be started with a key from a different plane.

Cascio said he knew Patricio had taken flying lessons and that he believed Patricio when he said he had a license and permission to take the plane. Cascio said Patricio noted before take-off that the plane didn't have much gas, but he thought they could get to New Haven and back to Danbury in the affidavit.

"Cascio stated that Patricio did not have a headset on and that he did not think there was a radio in the plane," according to the affidavit. "Cascio stated that he looked at the fuel gauge and the needle was on empty."

"We said, 'Find anything to land on.' I saw what looked kinda like an airport. I saw airplanes. We circled around looking for a place to land and then we flew down and landed on a taxi strip, I think it's called," according to Mentch's statements to police.

Patricio landed at the Westchester County Airport where police recovered one bottle of Guinness beer and one broken bottle of Corona beer from the taxiway where the plane landed. Police said the bottle caps for each were found in the cabin.

"Mentch stated that he saw Patricio drink one beer while he was flying the plane," according to the affidavit.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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