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Fresh Meadows pilot mourned after fatal crash

Cyril McLavin flies his beloved Globe Swift aircraft. McLavin and his friend, Dr. Andrew Messana, died Oct. 21 after the plane crashed into the Moriches Inlet in Long Island. Photo courtesy Greg Semendinger
TimesLedger Newspapers

Friends and family gathered at Frederick Funeral Home to grieve for a Queens man who died in a plane crash on Long Island after police said his beloved Globe Swift plummeted into the Moriches Inlet near Fire Island late last month.

Friends described Cyril McLavin, 51, a handyman from Ireland who lived in Fresh Meadows, as a flying enthusiast who seemed happiest when he was in the air.

“We all kind of knew if Cyril was going to go this was how he was going to do it,” said Joe McCann, 38, who worked on some contracting jobs with McLavin. “He loved [flying]. That was his thing.”

The Oct. 21 plane crash also claimed the life of Dr. Andrew Messana, 72, of Bayside, police said. Messana retired about five years ago from Sophora Diagnostic Laboratory in Jamaica, where he worked for 15 years as a laboratory administrator and director of pathology services.

McLavin’s wake was held at the funeral home at 208-17 Northern Blvd. Oct. 24 in Auburndale and a private cremation took place afterward. McLavin’s brother and family flew into town from Ireland for the services.

The room was decorated with pictures of McLavin, including one of the pilot in his Globe Swift, a plane that was popular after World War II and which he had recently purchased.

Caroline Joyce, 32, of Mullingar, Ireland, said her mother had been friendly with McLavin for several years. Joyce said McLavin was a caring man, who let her stay with him for several weeks when she first moved to New York 10 years ago and was looking for an apartment.

“He was always willing to help,” she said, her voice wavering.

McCann said McLavin was a great pilot and he had even taken him up flying a few times.

“I trusted him more flying a plane than I would driving a car,” McCann said.

It’s still unclear what caused the crash. Both McLavin and Messana were experienced pilots and flying conditions were reportedly good the day the men perished after flying out of Spadaro Airport on Long Island around 3 p.m.

Although police said fishermen on a nearby boat tied a rope to the plane in attempts to keep it above water, their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and the plane sank 30 feet underwater with the men still inside. The bodies were recovered several hours later, police said.

Those who witnessed the accident told authorities they heard the sputtering of an engine as they watched the plane go down, police said.

The incident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and it is expected to take a year or more to complete a report on what caused the accident.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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