December 01, 2004

`We Will Miss Teddy Forever'

Ebersol Family Thankful For Support During Tragedy

As federal officials in Colorado investigated whether icing and mechanical failure were factors in the plane crash that killed 14-year-old Edward "Teddy" Ebersol, friends in Connecticut made preparations to memorialize the son of a prominent Litchfield family.

The Rev. Robert Tucker of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Litchfield said Tuesday that congregants of his church, where the Ebersols worshipped, have been stopping at the church to pray for the family.

"People are concerned," Tucker said.

Teddy's parents, NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol and actress Susan Saint James of Litchfield, released a statement Tuesday expressing thanks to those who have offered their love and support.

"In the wake of this tragedy, we are touched by the overwhelming outpouring of love from people all over the world," the Ebersol family said in their statement. "We will miss Teddy, our sweet boy, forever."

The family asked that contributions made in Teddy's honor be sent to the Litchfield County Association for Retarded Citizens Inc., a Torrington-based organization where Teddy volunteered.

"This is a way of keeping his memory alive," Tucker said. "This was something that was special to him."

Teddy was following his mother's lead by volunteering in the program run by the retarded citizens group to help the disabled in daily activities. Saint James is active in a wide array of causes in Connecticut, including the Special Olympics.

Program coordinators at the organization recalled that Teddy talked sports and played video games with program participants. He also encouraged his classmates to join him in volunteering.

The organization is conducting a fund drive to build a new facility that will allow it to expand services for the disabled.

Teddy was killed Sunday in the fiery crash of a twin-engine CL-601 Challenger that also injured his father, Dick, 57, and his brother, Charles, 21. Saint James and another brother, Willie, 18, were not on the flight. Saint James also has two children, Sunshine and Harmony Lucas, from a previous marriage.

Dick and Charles Ebersol remained hospitalized in Grand Junction, Colo., Tuesday. Both men are expected to recover fully from their injuries.

Investigators probing what caused the jet to crash during takeoff have determined that it was not de-iced, a federal official said Tuesday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Arnold Scott also said investigators were examining the jack screws that raise and lower the wing flaps. He said nothing had been ruled out as a potential cause.

The plane's cockpit voice recorder was taken to an NTSB lab in Washington, where analysts were reviewing the pilots' final words. Scott declined to discuss the contents but said the 31-minute recording was in good condition.

The plane crashed while taking off from the airport outside Montrose, a small town 185 miles southwest of Denver. A snowstorm had moved through the area and the plane took off in light snow and fog.

Montrose County Coroner Mark Young said Teddy was killed when he was ejected from the plane and crushed by the wreckage.

The pilot, Luis Alberto Polanco, 50, of the Dominican Republic, and flight attendant Warren T. Richardson III, 36, of Coral Gables, Fla., also were killed. The co-pilot was in critical condition Tuesday at a burn unit in Denver.

Polanco had a valid Dominican pilot's license, which he first obtained in 1977, said Francis Mesa, a spokesman for Dominican Civil Aeronautics. He also was licensed in the United States.

"I had two major concerns when I got here," said Scott. "The first was to recover the sixth occupant and the second was to recover the cockpit voice recorder. We accomplished those things and now we'll get into the intricate details of the investigation."

NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Connors said that factors to be studied include possible structural failure, fuel imbalance, engine failure, air speed, human factors and weather. Investigators will interview Dick Ebersol when doctors allow it, she said.

Witnesses said it appeared the plane never got off the ground, and Scott said one of the survivors said it felt as if the plane was sliding off the runway during takeoff.

The Ebersols were flying home from California after the University of Notre Dame played Southern California in a football game Saturday. Charles is a senior at Notre Dame and Willie is a freshman at USC. The plane stopped in Colorado to drop off Saint James, then was scheduled to head to Indiana to drop Charles off at Notre Dame.

No information was available Tuesday about funeral arrangements for Teddy. Susan Graham, the head of school at The Gunnery, the Washington, Conn., private school where Teddy was a freshman, said a memorial would be planned at the school, but details had not been worked out yet.

Donations can be sent to LARC Capital Campaign in memory of Teddy Ebersol, 84R Main St., Torrington, CT 06790.

Ebersol Family Statement

The Ebersol family released the following statement through NBC early Tuesday evening:

"In the wake of this tragedy, we are touched by the overwhelming outpouring of love from people all over the world.

We will miss Teddy, our sweet boy, forever. He was a deeply cherished brother to his sister, Sunshine, and his brothers Harmony, Charlie, and Willie.

Teddy was a warm, loving, energetic young man. He had developed a wonderfully quirky sense of humor way beyond his years that kept the whole family laughing.

His wonderful spirit lives on in our family, and in all who knew and loved him. Of course, everyone who knew Teddy was aware of his passion for the Boston Red Sox, and a highlight of his short life was the Red Sox winning their first championship in 86 years. Like his team, Teddy never lost hope.

While our grief is unfathomable, we are so proud of our Charlie, who pulled his father from the flames. That anyone was able to survive this horrible accident is a miracle, and all of us will forever be inspired by Charlie's courage and bravery.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Luis [Alberto Polanco] and Warren Richardson, who perished along with our son, and to the third crewmember, who remains critically injured. Again, we are so grateful for your prayers and support."

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