NTSB investigates fatal crash near St. Mary’s

by Ben Matheson on December 4, 2013

Investigators have completed the on-scene investigation into the Hageland Cessna 208 crash that killed four people and injured six outside St. Mary’s on Friday night.

NTSB Regional office chief Clint Johnson says the investigation is shifting to a recovery operation.

“They did everything they possibly could at the site, but obviously because of the remoteness of the site, we need to get it back to anchorage so we can continue the investigation,” said Johnson.

NTSB is working with recovery crew to fly the wreckage with a lift helicopter to the St. Mary’s airport. It will then be loaded on a plane and taken to a hangar in Anchorage.

“Someplace where we can lay the airplane out, piece all the parts and pieces back together, determine or confirm that there were no mechanical issues that maybe led to this accident. Right now we don’t know for absolutely sure. We’ll be inviting the airframe manufacturer, Cessna, as well as the engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, to be part of the investigative team. We’ll use their expertise as far as each one of their products,” said Johnson.

Johnson emphasizes that investigators don’t yet know what caused the plane to crash into the tundra.

“We’re still very much in the formative stages of this accident investigation, it’s way too early draw any conclusions,” said Johnson.

There were a few witnesses that investigators can interview. So far they’ve interviewed two of the surviving 6 passengers. There were also a couple witnesses at the St. Mary’s airport who can provide their account of the crash. Another critical component is that of weather. The conditions at the time of the crash were reported to be foggy with temperatures in the teens and some reported freezing rain. A NTSB meteorologist has been assigned to the case.

“He has in the last couple days gathered a tremendous amount of information as far as current conditions or at the time at the accident, forecast conditions and after the accident,” said Johnson. “It’s an integral part of the investigation and that part is continuing.”

Johnson says the goal is to have a preliminary report published about 5 days after accident. After that, the complete investigation could take nine months or a year.

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