NTSB probes cancer patient's plane crash

August 13, 2008 7:20:53 PM PDT
The pilot of a plane that crashed into a shopping plaza parking lot did not make a distress call and was repeatedly warned that he was flying too low shortly before the plane spiraled to the ground, killing a Long Island cancer patient and the two other people on board, a federal investigator said. Meanwhile, audio recordings of the plane's final minutes showed frantic attempts by a Boston air traffic controller to urge the pilot to climb just before the plane disappeared from radar.

The charity flight was carrying cancer patient Robert Gregory, of Riverhead, N.Y., and his wife, Donna Gregory, to Boston's Logan International Airport for treatment at the nearby Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Witnesses said the plane appeared to lose power, then nosedive into the parking lot in Easton, about 25 miles south of Boston.

Joseph Baker, of Brookfield, Conn., a U.S. Navy submarine veteran and volunteer pilot for the charity group, Angel Flight Northeast, also was killed.

Baker did not make a distress call before the crash and there was no other indication from the pilot that he was in trouble, senior National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tim Monville said at the crash site.

The NTSB has received air traffic control data and radar information from the Federal Aviation Administration and is studying the new information to determine the sequence of events before the crash, Monn Easton told investigators that they saw the aircraft circling the area, flying low and then plunging to the ground, Monville said.

The examination of the crash site and the wreckage indicates that the right wing was first to hit the ground before the plane rotated 45 degrees and came to rest upright, Monville said.

"A post-crash fire consumed the cockpit, cabin and portion of the left wing," he said.

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On the Net:

Audio of air traffic controller: http://www.boston.com/news/local/specials/081208-plane-audio/ ----
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