Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Steamboat Springs A preliminary investigation into the Sunday morning airplane crash that killed a father and son near Yampa Valley Regional Airport revealed the plane was upside down and moving at a high rate of speed when it hit the ground, an investigator said Tuesday.
Air Safety Investigator Tim LeBaron, of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Tuesday that his initial inspection of the crash site also indicated the plane did not break up before it hit the ground.
"It's obvious there was a loss of control. Nobody crashes that way, so the question is why there was a loss of control," he said.
LeBaron said the loss of control could have been caused by a number of factors, including mechanical, environmental and medical circumstances.
The plane, a Pilatus PC-12, did not have a data or voice recorder, LeBaron said, and did not make any radio contact with YVRA or air traffic controllers at the Denver Center after takeoff.
The plane was bound for Chino, Calif., near the Yorba Linda, Calif., home of pilot William "Bill" Rooney. His son, William Patrick Rooney III, also was in the plane.
The plane took off Sunday morning headed west but was found 1 mile north of the airport.
LeBaron said that because there were no eyewitnesses after takeoff and no data, he cannot yet explain why the plane ended up outside its stated flight path.
A recovery crew arrived today to transport the debris from the crash site - a snow-covered wheat field - to Greeley, where it will remain in locked storage until the investigation is complete.
During the course of the investigation, LeBaron said he will trace all controls in the plane to make sure they were operational during the final flight. A backhoe was used Tuesday to remove the engine from the field, and engine investigators in Greeley will determine whether it was running at the time of impact, LeBaron said.
LeBaron, who is based in Arlington, Texas, said his investigation will rule out many factors, but the final cause of the crash will not be announced for about a year. A preliminary report by LeBaron will be released early next week.