2 children among dead in Georgia plane crash, investigator says

By Tamar Hallerman

ATLANTA — Two children and two adults were killed Friday afternoon when a small aircraft crashed and burst into flames at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, according to the federal official tasked with investigating the scene.

Daniel Boggs, air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, declined to identify the names of the victims at a Sunday morning press conference because he said they had not all been confirmed. But he said the agency believed the passengers were on a personal family trip to Houston.

NTSB has been on the ground at DeKalb-Peachtree over the weekend investigating the cause of the crash, interviewing witnesses and air traffic control tower workers and collecting videos. Officials from the independent agency, which is tasked with probing every civil aviation accident in the country and issuing safety recommendations, will likely be on site for two or three more days, according to Boggs.

“We’ll be looking at the weight of the aircraft. We’ll be looking at the engine,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the servicing. We’ll be looking at the qualifications of the pilot.”

Later Sunday, a salvaging company will be moving the remains of the aircraft to a secure facility, where NTSB officials will dissect the surviving components of the plane. It will be particularly difficult because the fire damage was so severe, Boggs said.

Unlike larger and commercial aircraft, small personal planes don’t have black boxes or cockpit voice recorders that can shed light on the cause of crashes. Some smaller planes do feature boxes that show how the aircraft’s engines were running.

“We’re going to look at that but there’s so much fire damage we don’t think we’re going to get any usable data off of that,” Boggs said.

The 1978, six-seater Cessna P210N Centurion aircraft crashed at about 1:10 p.m. Friday. Cellphone video appeared to show the crash near the runway seconds after takeoff and a large plume of black smoke.

Boggs said the aircraft was recently modified from a Continental engine to a Rolls Royce turbine engine. The plane was outfitted with an additional tank that was full of fuel, which explains the intensity of the fire, he added. NTSB is waiting for additional paperwork about the modification.

Boggs said he did not believe the weather was a factor in the crash on Friday. There were no survivors.

Patrick Bailey, director of the DeKalb medical examiner’s office, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

The agency plans to issue a preliminary report in 14 days, according to Boggs. A final assessment will be published in 12 to 18 months.

Located in northeastern DeKalb less than 10 miles from downtown Atlanta, DeKalb-Peachtree Airport is the state’s second busiest behind Hartsfield-Jackson, with roughly 209,000 annual takeoffs and landings.

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