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Plane Crashed in Vertical Dive: Report

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 16, 2012 / 05:35pm | Top Story, Faith & Family
NEW SITE, Miss. (WCBI) -- A plane that crashed July 8 in Prentiss County, killing a Georgia family, came out of the thunderstorm in a nose dive before crashing into a tree and the ground, a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report says.

The crash near County Road 4111 near New Site killed Caroline Bartley, a 20-year-old biology major at the University of Mississippi, and her parents,James Bartley Jr. and Terry Bartley. The Columbus, Ga. couple were flying from their summer home in western North Carolina to Oxford when they flew into the thunderstorm.

The single-engine Piper Cherokee Lance crashed moments later.

It was the second weather-related crash of a small plane in Mississippi in less than two months' time. On May 31, a small plane crashed in Noxubee County, killing its sole passenger, the pilot.

A preliminary federal report showed weather was a contributing factor when Tracy Shirley III of Oklahoma tried to fly through a gap in a line of severe storms before he was killed in the crash, according to findings of the National Transportation Safety Administration.

Below is a copy of the NTSB's preliminary report on the Prentiss County crash.

NTSB Identification: ERA12FA433
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 08, 2012 in New Site, MS
Aircraft: PIPER PA-32R-300, registration: N4386F
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On July 8, 2012, about 1400 central daylight time, a Piper PA-32R-300, N4386F, was substantially damaged when it broke up in flight and impacted in a heavily wooded area near New Site, Mississippi. The flight had departed from the Western Carolina Regional Airport (RHP), Andrews, North Carolina, about 1218 and had an intended destination of University-Oxford Airport (OUX), Oxford, Mississippi. Day visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

According to an eyewitness, the airplane was observed entering a cloud associated with a "really bad thunderstorm" and subsequently was spotted exiting the cloud, in a near vertical descent attitude. In addition parts were observed separated from the airplane and fluttering to the ground. The engine was heard to be operating until the airplane disappeared from view.

The airplane initially collided with an approximate 100 foot tall tree before it impacted the ground in a nose down, left side low attitude. The engine was located approximately 53 inches into the ground and it remained attached to the firewall. The 3-bladed propeller remained attached to the engine. Two of the propeller blades exhibited torsion twisting and S-bending. The stabilator, left wing, and vertical stabilizer were separated from the airplane and located about 1,470 feet to the northwest of the main wreckage. The impact crater was approximately 14 feet in length and the main cabin area, cockpit and instrument panel, right wing, engine, and empennage with rudder were located inside the impact crater. The nose gear and right main landing gear were in the retracted position. The left main landing gear was located with the left wing and in the retracted position. The flaps were in the retracted or "UP" position.

According to documentation provided by a fixed base operator located at the departure airport, the airplane was fueled with 33.7 gallons of aviation fuel the day prior to the accident.

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