Investigators say significant pieces of a single-engine plane operated by a Nebraska surgeon fell in flight before crashing west of Minneapolis, killing him and two relatives.
The Mooney M20M crashed and burned on Saturday afternoon near a home about a block from the downtown area of Victoria, a community of about 7,300 people about 25 miles west of Minneapolis. Flames engulfed the house but no one on the ground was injured.
Relatives and employers identified the dead as Dr. James Edney, 72, of Omaha, Neb., who was piloting the plane, his stepson, Jacob Mertes, 42, and Jacob’s wife, Dr. Sarah Mertes, 37, both of Libby, Mont.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Mike Fockerts told reporters Sunday that the plane, which took off from Alexandria, western Minnesota, was approaching Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie when it crashed.
“The pilot approached the control tower, then made several heading changes and altitude deviations from a normal, stable flight path in the final,” Fockerts said. “The last broadcast was about 10 miles from the airport.”
He said contact with the control tower was routine, and no distress calls were made.
But Fockerts said parts of the plane’s tail – fragments of the left lift and left horizontal stabilizer – were found to be a few blocks from the rest of the debris, indicating they had fallen off in flight.
“Without an elevator and a horizontal stabilizer, the aircraft is not flyable,” he said.
He said the sky was cloudy with a ceiling of 1,100 feet and a visibility of 9 miles.
Fockerts said the NTSB is looking into all factors that could have caused the accident, including the pilot, the aircraft and the environment. Preliminary investigation report is expected in about two weeks; A complete report takes 12 to 18 months.