Gambale, owner of Freedom Bail Bonding in Fairfax, Va., said Jenny told him his dream was to be an Army warrant officer and fly combat helicopters. Jenny came to him without experience in the field of fugitive recovery, he said, but quickly excelled by finding innovative ways to track down people who skipped bail.

Jenny, who worked for Gambale for about three or four years, created Facebook accounts to communicate with fugitives and used GPS technology to learn about their whereabouts, Gambale said.

"His spirit and his drive were remarkable," Gambale said. "I haven't seen that since I have been in the Marines. His will to work, he was so positive about everything."

Gambale recalled the joy Jenny described when discussing his plans to become a pilot.

"He knew he would do well at it, and I wished him luck," Gambale said. "He is a passionate man. Every day, he lives for the day. … He wanted more. He loved life.

"He is missed by all. He is loved by all. It's a sad day."

Gerard Corprew, who runs the tiny Tri Cities Airport in Endicott, recalled helping Woodland and his son settle into the airport's lounge area about 6 p.m., where the two watched TV and played with a yellow truck and other toys.

Corprew said he didn't ask any questions about their trip, but records show the helicopter stopped Saturday to refuel in the New York village twice, once at 4 p.m. and again at 8 p.m.

"When I realized that was them, it was tragic and it was a blow, because I got the chance to play with the son, the little boy," Corprew said. "He was having fun. He was a happy little boy. I just set them up in a lounge and told them, 'I've got to go home, have fun' and [to] make themselves at home."

Corprew, who has worked at the airport for about five years, said that when he left for the day about 6:45 p.m., it was raining and thunderstorms were approaching. He said he "thought twice" about whether it was safe to fly and, in the time since the accident, he's been "second-guessing" himself.

"If I stayed a little bit longer, maybe I could have met the pilot and convinced him not to fly," Corprew said.

Knudson said the helicopter, which was "heavily fragmented" after the crash, contained a device that kept records on engine operations and that it would be reviewed by investigators to see whether it could shed light on what caused the crash. There are not believed to be any witnesses.

FAA records indicate the helicopter was owned by its manufacturer, Robinson Helicopter Co. in California. NTSB investigators plan to be on the scene for several days, Knudson said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Dance contributed to this article.