HARTSVILLE, SC (WMBF) – The National Transportation Safety Board has filed a preliminary report on the plane crash on March 8, 2014 that killed three men, revealing new details on what went wrong during the small private plane's flight.
View the complete preliminary report on the NTSB website here: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=20140308X02401&key=1
According to the report, the experimental, amateur-built Lancair IVP plane was substantially damaged after a loss of control, apparently due to problems with the plane's landing gear.
The plane crashed in a neighborhood southeast of the Hartsville Regional Airport at around 6:40 p.m. on Saturday, March 8, officials said. Coroner Todd Hardee initially confirmed there were two fatalities, and Darlington County Sheriff's officials later confirmed a third fatality.
The victims were identified by Hardee as 61-year-old George Rogers from Society Hill, 29-year-old Josh Melton Loflin from Pelzer, and 75-year-old Leslie Bradshaw from Hartsville. The NTSB report confirms that all three men were rated as pilots.
According to witnesses, the pilot had been having problems with the airplane's landing gear and was receiving a "Gear Unsafe" indication, the report states. Earlier in day of the accident he was seen working on the airplane and when asked about it, the pilot said that he was troubleshooting an electrical problem.
At about 6:18 p.m., a relative of the pilot received a text message asking him to come to Hartsville Regional Airport, where the plane had been taking off from and landing all day prior to the accident, according to the report. Then at 6:36 p.m., the relative received a second message to "Call 911." At about this time, a witness saw the airplane pass by him several times, flying low to the ground. He then saw the plane fly across the airport, bank sharply to the left, pitch up to about 25 degrees nose up, then descend rapidly until he lost sight of the airplane. Moments later, he heard the sound of an impact, and saw a large ball of fire and smoke.
An examination of the crash site revealed the airplane struck two trees before hitting the ground, coming to rest next to a row of trees. The wreckage showed that there was a post-crash fire, and no evidence of a pre-impact structural failure. The propeller showed evidence of "S-bending, leading edge gouging, and chordwise scratching," according to the NTSB report. The engine showed signs of "rotational scoring and reverse bending on multiple turbine blades," the report states.
According to the report:
"Examination of the landing gear system revealed that the landing gear handle was in the down position however, the nose landing gear was in the "up" position. The left and right main landing gear were partially extended, and the left main landing gear leg was fractured into two pieces. Examination of the main landing gear doors indicated that the right main landing gear door was closed during the impact sequence and the left main landing gear door was open during the impact sequence. Examination of the hydraulic reservoir revealed it was not full, and only contained about 10 tablespoons of hydraulic fluid. During the examination, no leaks were discovered in the reservoir."
Further examination of the wreckage showed that the panel for the landing gear actuators had been removed, with scratch and pry marks on the panel cover, and a knife nearby.
The NTSB was on scene for several days after the accident collecting evidence about the crash. The wreckage was removed by a salvage company shortly after.
In nine months to a year, a full report will be released by the NTSB about the accident investigation.
View more details about the crash and video from the scene here: