ST. GEORGE – The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of Saturday’s airplane crash at St. George Municipal Airport is underway.
NTSB Air Safety Investigator, Zoe Keliher, arrived at St. George Municipal Airport at 3 p.m. Saturday after receiving a call at six in the morning in Boise. The Federal Aviation Administration Communications Center had received a report that airport personnel doing a routine check at the St. George airport had discovered the aircraft around 5:40 a.m.
After surveying the scene, overseeing and helping with the sheriff’s personnel and first responders on scene, Keliher said they determined there were a pilot and three passengers, all male, involved in the accident*.
Security camera footage and possible data from a weather station at the airport will be useful in the investigation.
“I found the airport security camera footage,” Keliher said, “and we looked back and did see that there was an aircraft that departed Runway 1-9 at 1:20 a.m. It stayed at low levels the length of the runway and then we could see a pull-up, and then it pulled up where it wasn’t in the frame for the coverage, then we saw shortly thereafter descent.”
What they were able to see of the aircraft on the camera footage was the aircraft’s navigation lights, given that it was 1:20 a.m. and dark.
There was a lot of wind the night of the crash. Information Keliher is able to gather from a weather station at the airport will be evaluated here and by a meteorologist at NTSB headquarters in Washington.
On Sunday, representatives of Cessna Aircraft Company, the airplane manufacturer, and Textron Lycoming, the engine manufacturer, joined in the investigation.
The plane involved bears Tail Number Tail Number N953SP.
“We performed an examination, I also took aerial photos,” Keliher said. “I went up to try and get some reference to where it was in location to the area around it.”
The aircraft has been removed from the accident scene to a private hangar for preservation and examination. St. George News was given opportunity to photograph the wreckage but, after careful consideration of the distress photographs may cause to some readers, has declined.
Keliher said they will look for any mechanical failure or malfunctions with the airframe or the engine or any anomalies that could have led to the accident.
She said she would also try to contact family members to get an idea of a 72-hour history of anything going on with the pilot prior to the accident. NTSB looks into any physiological and psychological factors present in the pilot that may have contributed to the accident.
“Right now I haven’t found any witnesses,” Keliher said. “I’m definitely looking for any witnesses or anyone that can give me any information that might have been going on with them earlier that night – anyone with any information they think might be relevant, it’d be great for them to email me.”
She asked that anyone who has known the people involved, particularly anyone who had contact with them prior to the accident during a 72-hour period, email her.
Keliher said the mission of the NTSB is to determine what happened and why it happened and then, of course, to recommend changes to keep it from happening again.
Keliher can be emailed at: [email protected]
No probable cause is being given at this time. Keliher expects to put out a preliminary report in five days. Final report will take six to eight months and may be tracked on www.ntsb.gov.
The City of St. George has provided the following information identifying the names, ages, home and name each goes by, of those perished in the accident.
• Colby Chester Hafen, 28, Santa Clara, Utah, “Colby”
• Tanner James Holt, 23, Washington, Utah, and Georgia, “Tanner”
• Alexander James Metzger, 22, St. George, “Alex”
• Christopher Jordan Chapman, 20, Santa Clara, “Jordan”
email: [email protected]
Copyright 2012 St. George News.