NTSB at airport to investigate cause of airplane crash that killed three

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; The National Transportation Safety Board will release within 10 days the probable cause of an airplane crash that killed three and injured one Saturday morning at the Adams County Airport.

That’s according to Jose Obregon, an aviation accident investigator with the NTSB. &uot;Then, it will take six months to a year for (the board) to issue a final report,&uot; Obregon said.

He was one of four investigators from that agency and the Federal Aviation Administration who were at the airport Sunday. Although they will still be working at the airport today, Obregon did not know as of Sunday how long his team would take to complete the on-site investigation.

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Sunday morning at the site, about 100 feet from the end of the runway, investigators examined debris from the Mooney M20, a single-engine plane piloted by Vincent J. Lewis. The debris was then towed to a hangar at the airport for further study.

Lewis, 56; his granddaughter, 10-year-old Jessi Marie Harris; and her friend Victoria Spiers, also 10, all of Wichita Falls, Texas, died in the crash.

Spiers’ mother, 33-year-old Carmen Hastings, was airlifted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center Saturday in critical condition. Further information about Hastings’ condition was not available Sunday afternoon.

Obregon wouldn’t speculate on the cause of Saturday’s crash.

However, some witnesses said they heard the plane’s engine stall just before the plane fell, possibly because it was taking off at too sharp an angle.

Airport Executive Director Clint Pomeroy said his staff told him the plane had taken off on runway 31, headed northwest, and got airborne only 100 to 200 feet before it banked sharply left and took a nosedive into the ground.

The plane spun after slamming into an embankment about 100 feet from the runway, breaking off its propeller and smashing the front of the fuselage into the victims.

It was the first fatal crash in more than 20 years at the Natchez airport and the first incident of any kind in more than two years, according to Pomeroy.