SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Federal investigators had found nothing Wednesday to explain why a small private plane crashed while approaching the airport in Springfield, killing two of the three men aboard.
Pam Sullivan, senior air safety investigator for National Transportation Safety Board, said the probe was in its early stages.
Investigators will focus on the plane, the pilot and the weather to determine why the single-engine Cessna 182 crashed Tuesday night in a farm field about a half-mile from Springfield-Branson Regional Airport. It likely will be six months before a probable cause is released, Sullivan said.
Authorities were interviewing the survivor, Scholomo S. Pessar, 44, of Paramus, N.J., Greene County Sheriff Jack Merritt said. Pessar remained in critical condition Wednesday evening.
Merritt identified the victims as Moussa R. Pessar, 60, of Greenfield Center, N.Y. and Paul B. Premsagar, 68, of Scotia, N.Y. The men were believed related, but it was unclear how, Merritt said.
Moussa Pessar and Premsagar died of head injuries, Greene County Medical Examiner Paul Spence said.
The plane, which seats up to six people, was flying from Oklahoma to Springfield, Sullivan said. Its final destination was New York.
By midday Wednesday, Sullivan had only looked at the plane’s flight controls, which were among the debris scattered over about 200 yards. Nothing unusual was found, she said.
The pilot had been in contact with the airport tower shortly before the crash, Sullivan said.
“There was some discussion regarding their altitude and whether they were going to be able to make a landing at that altitude,” said Sullivan, noting that she had seen the radio communications transcript.
The plane struck a tree, breaking off a wing before hitting the ground, Sullivan said.
The fuselage slid about 500 feet before coming to rest in a mound of crumpled metal.
The plane had stopped about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal airport in Ardmore, Okla., said Kenny King, the airport’s air traffic manager. The men ate dinner at the airport cafe and then took off about 5 p.m., he said.
Once she has combed the wreckage, Sullivan said she would begin looking at other factors, such as weather conditions, witness reports and what the pilot did in the hours before the crash.
Springfield had light rain earlier Tuesday evening, but it was mostly cloudy with light southerly winds when the plane crashed about 7:40 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.
Greg Duvall and his wife were driving near the airport when they spotted the plane. Duvall, a licensed private pilot, said it caught his eye because it appeared the pilot was attempting to land but he was too high over the runway.
“All of the sudden it looked like he made a sharp left turn and then dove in the field,” he said.
Duvall initially believed the plane may have landed safely because there was no fire. Within minutes, firefighters were on the scene, he said.
Keith Alexander, of San Diego, said Wednesday he recently sold the plane and that the new owners were flying it back to New York. He would not say whom he sold the plane to or exactly when he sold it.
The last time there was a fatal crash at the airport was in 1994, said Gary Cyr, acting director of aviation at the Springfield airport. That crash also involved a private plane.
It was the third fatal plane crash this month in the state. Last week, a commuter jet crashed while attempting to land in Kirksville, killing 13. A 50-seat regional jet flying without passengers crashed in Jefferson City on Oct. 14, killing the plane’s two pilots.