NTSB looking for witnesses to Saturday’s plane crash in Lafayette

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Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are asking witnesses to send statements and videos to witness@ntsb.gov following Saturday’s fatal plane crash in Lafayette.

The crash killed five of the six people on board the plane, all of whom were enroute to Atlanta to attend the Peach Bowl National Championship football game between LSU and Oklahoma.

The crash’s sole survivor, Stephen Wade Berzas, remained in critical condition Sunday, at a local hospital, officials have confirmed.

The small passenger plane only climbed about 900 feet before its descent and never made a distress call, authorities investigating the accident said Sunday, one day after the crash.

There were no distress calls made from the plane and there was no conversation with the flight crew after the plane took off, officials said.

The wrecked plane remained at the crash site Sunday. Nearby stores, including Walmart, were open, but it’s not clear the status of the post office or when it will open.

The crash debris field stretched about one-quarter of a mile, Landsberg estimated.

NTSB investigators will comb the crash site, taking photos of the wreckage and collecting any material that can be taken to a lab for further assessment.

Lead investigator Jennifer Rodi said she expects all of the material to be collected by the end of day Monday. 

The information is particularly important because the plane did not have a flight data recorder. Landsberg said not having one is common on planes like the eight-passenger Piper Cheyenne that crashed. 

“Suffice to say, it complicates the job tremendously when we don’t have that,” Landsberg said. 

He warned the NTSB investigation will be lengthy, likely taking between 12 and 18 months to complete.

The Federal Aviation Commission, Transport Canada, Craft Whitney Engines and the plane’s manufacturer are assisting in the investigation. 

“That seems like a long time,” Landsberg said. “It is. But we have to go through a lot of detail and be absolutely sure we leave no stone unturned.”

As part of its investigation, the NTSB will assess the pilot’s training, qualifications and medical certifications. It will look into the aircraft’s maintenance history and the airframe. It also will assess if or how the weather affected the flight. 

It was cloudy in Lafayette when the plane took off. Visibility was at about three-fourths of a mile and winds were blowing at 5 knotts. The cloud base began at about 200 feet. No flights took off from the airport 30 minutes prior to the crashed flight, Rodi said. 

“This is one of the difficult things that we do,” Landsberg said. “And our objective here is to figure out what happened, why it happened and how we can prevent such things from happening in the future.”



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