While the investigation into the plane crash that took Ice Road Truckers star Darrell Ward’s life earlier this year is ongoing, the National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report of its findings. The exact cause of the crash remains unknown, but the report contains a previously unseen eyewitness description, one that could help investigators over the coming months.
Ward, 52, and friend Mark Melotz, 56, were the only two passengers in a Cessna 182D Skylane piloted by Melotz. (Melotz was fully licensed to fly the plane, which he had come into possession of only days earlier, and the plane was believed to be in perfect working order.) The two men were expected at the Rock Creek Airport in Clinton MT, near Missoula, and friends and family had gathered to welcome them. According to reports at the time, the plane experienced a sudden, rapid, and unexpected descent as it approached the runway, then crashed into a strand of trees, and exploded.
The eyewitness isn’t named in the NTSB report–which you can read in full here–but the document does note that he is “a certified commercial pilot.” Here’s the eyewitness report:
Upon the airplane’s arrival it overflew the airport from east to west, then turned back to the east on an extended right downwind. The witness stated that when the airplane was on final approach it was stable, with the wind being out of the west, “…right down runway 25 at about 8 knots.” The witness further stated that when the airplane was about 40 feet above the runway and preparing to land, it suddenly veered 90 degrees to the right, in what he estimated to be about a 30-degree bank angle. The airplane subsequently collided with a stand of trees that bordered the runway on the north, then impacted the ground before coming to rest upright on the shoulder of an Interstate highway. Shortly thereafter, a fire erupted, which consumed the forward two-thirds of the airplane.
The NTSB’s investigation is expected to take a full year, meaning its final report should be available in the late summer or early fall of 2017.
Tributes continue to pour into the official Darrell Ward tribute page on Facebook, which now has over 54,000 likes.
(Photo credits: How did Darrell Ward die via Facebook)