Community rallies to honor plane crash victim

LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been seven months since two people died in a plane crash in Lancaster. The pilot, 78-year-old Anthony Mercurio, and the passenger 14-year-old James Metz collided with another aircraft mid-air.

James Metz’s family is now working on a project to preserve James’ memory through the sport he loved the most.

“It’s not as bad as day one but about as bad as after that first week, it hasn’t gotten any better,” said Steve Metz, James’ father.

He told us they’ve found comfort in the community, which is now rallying behind a plan to renovate the Keysa Park basketball court in memory of James.

“[He] loved to play basketball,” said Steve Metz. “He’d be out for hours shooting, all day, in front of the house.”

James’ younger brother Donovan was usually by his side. Donovan came up with the idea to renovate the park.

They plan to replace the blacktop, put in new hoops and a new drainage system, and turn the tennis court into a roller hockey rink. The family hopes it will bring people together.

“It’s more than just playing the game, it’s about building relationships and these relationships we have in this community, they’re lifelong relationships,” said Noreen Williams, James’ aunt.

Relationships have already started forming around the project, Williams said. At least seven contractors have agreed to volunteer their time and the community has donated more than $70,000 to the project.

It’s a gesture to help this family remember James, who was known as “the kid with the smile.”

“It’s our job to complete his task and represent James and ourselves,” said Williams. “He defines everything we are and what we will be.”

The project is still in the planning stages. On Monday night, the Lancaster Town Board reviews the project’s environmental impact and then it can move forward to a final approval.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board has still not issued a final report on the cause of the crash. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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