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NTSB releases preliminary report on plane crash

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary accident report during the weekend from an airplane crash that took the lives of two Indiana residents on Friday, Oct. 9, on Buffalo Mountain, near the Unicoi County and Washington County line.
According to the report, the flight initially departed earlier the day of the accident from Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Florida and was en route to Monroe County Airport in Indiana, before the pilot requested to divert to McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville due to ‘a significant amount of thunderstorms.’
The Columbia Aircraft made landfall in Knoxville at 3:58 p.m. and began the trip back home at 6:32 p.m. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed, according to the accident report.
According to radar provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 18 minutes after departure from Knoxville, the flight leveled off about 15,000 feet above mean sea level (msl). Around 16 minutes level, the report stated the plane turned left to a ground track of about 330 degrees and began a climb of around 17,000 feet. Three minutes later, after leveling off, the flight began to descend. The last radar return, recorded at 7:19 p.m., was in the vicinity of the accident location of an altitude of 3,400 feet msl. The report ruled the wreck occurrence at the time of the last radar return.
The crash impacted trees and terrain located in the Cherokee National Forest. A debris path was compact and the ground and tree scars were consistent with a vertical descent, and a nose down impact angle.
Inclement weather could have played a role in the accident, according to the NTSB investigation.
At 6:53 p.m., the recorded weather at Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, located approximately 16 miles from the accident location, included light rain and wind. After the wreck, a special recorded weather observation included thunderstorms with occasional lightning. The observation indicated that thunderstorms were near the airport and moving east.
The preliminary report also added that several eyewitnesses reported seeing the lights of the airplane as it descended downward. Some of the witnesses reported seeing lightning and heavy rain in the vicinity near the time of the accident.
A full-comprehensive overview from the NTSB is expected from six months to a year, air safety investigator Shawn Etcher told The Erwin Record on Saturday, Oct. 10, at the command center for the search of the wreck in Washington County.