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Feds probe cause of fatal plane crash on residential street


Rich Coleman

Debris from the Piper Lance model PA-32RT-300 aircraft litters the street after it crashed on Morning Mauve Avenue at 8:15 a.m. Monday, September 6.

Updated Monday, Sept. 6, 2010 | 10:03 p.m.

Associated Press: Raw crash video

Plane crash

A plane leaving Henderson crashed on a residential street near Bermuda Road. One man was taken to St. Rose Dominican Hospitals - Siena Campus and died. The other passengers were taken to University Medical Center with traumatic injuries and burns. Launch slideshow »

Plane crash

Federal investigators were working late Monday to determine what caused a small aircraft to crash into a south valley neighborhood, killing one person and badly injuring three others.

The crash was reported about 8:15 a.m. on Morning Mauve Avenue, which is a residential street southeast of Silverado Ranch Boulevard and Bermuda Road. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the plane took off from Henderson Executive Airport and was unable to gain altitude.

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the scene Monday afternoon to determine what caused the plane to go down.

Joshua Cawthra, an aviation accident investigator with the NTSB, flew to Southern Nevada from Washington state. He said investigators will sift through the wreckage in search of clues while also looking into the histories of the aircraft and the pilot.

"I really want to reinstate some normal life here because I know it's pretty tragic," he said Monday evening. "It's going to be a long few days."

Cawthra said a preliminary report on the crash would be available in about five days, although the full investigation could take six months or a year to complete.

Authorities didn't know the destination of the aircraft or the hometowns of the four occupants, but said luggage was inside the aircraft. Cawthra said the plane, which had room for six people, arrived at the Henderson airport Thursday.

The aircraft was registered to a Louisiana resident.

Metro Police Lt. Joe Ojeda, with the police air support search and rescue team, said the aircraft was a Piper Lance model PA-32RT-300. It crashed about three miles from the airport.

"It was taking off routinely and all of the sudden lost power," he said. "It appears from the trajectory that it attempted to land on the street."

A man -- one of two people sitting in the plane’s front seats -- was taken to St. Rose Dominican Hospitals - Siena Campus, where he died. The other passengers were taken to University Medical Center with extensive traumatic injuries and burns, Ojeda said.

Hospital spokeswoman Danita Cohen said Monday that two were listed in serious condition and one in critical condition.

Click to enlarge photo

A crane and flatbed truck arrive at the scene around 6 p.m. Monday to begin cleaning up debris on Morning Mauve Avenue. The wreckage will be taken to a secure location where the National Transportation Safety Board will continue its investigation.

The occupants of the plane were two men and two women in their late 30s to mid 40s, he said. No one on the ground was injured.

The pilot didn't make a distress call before the crash. No flight plan was filed, which isn't out of the ordinary in sunny weather conditions like this morning, authorities said.

"When engines fail on aircraft you only have a few seconds to respond," Ojeda said. "It appeared the way the aircraft was lined up that he did try to land on the road itself. On first blush it looks like he did try to do some kind of evasive maneuver to get down as safely as he could."

Ojeda said the plane struck two retaining walls, a streetlight pole and a tree before landing in the street. The impact of the crash "gouged" the road, he said. No houses were hit.

Ojeda praised neighbors for their responses before emergency crews arrived.

"The local people here in the neighborhood did a phenomenal job," he said. "They grabbed hoses and small fire extinguishers and they basically had the fire put out."

He said residents also pulled two occupants from the burning wreckage before firefighters arrived. The two were conscious at the time, he said.

Eric Poleski, a battalion chief with the Clark County Fire Department, described the scene as "chaotic" when the first firefighters arrived. He said two occupants had been pulled from the aircraft, while two others remained inside. He described their injuries as "quite significant."

Poleski said debris from the aircraft was scattered across the residential area.

"There's not much left of the aircraft other than the main fuselage," he said. "The wings and most of the tail assembly are in pieces and debris is scattered throughout the streets. The efforts of people with fire extinguishers and neighbors with hoses I'm sure helped prevent further injury, burn injuries specifically, to the people in the aircraft."

Courtney Downs, 16, said she heard the crash and saw passengers in the aircraft being rescued by neighbors.

"I felt (the house) shake this morning," she said. "I heard fire crackling, and I'm like, 'Oh my God, it's probably a car crash or something.' I heard a woman shrieking and there was a woman and man running out of the plane and heaved onto my lawn, burned up and bruised."

Click to enlarge photo

Neighbors watch as workers clean up Morning Mauve Avenue. When the plane crashed at 8:15 a.m., some neighbors helped extinguish the fire using water hoses and fire extinguishers from their homes.

Downs said the two people weren't on fire, but had cuts and other injuries. She looked at the plane and saw one person's leg, then realized not everyone had been rescued at that point.

"There were 11 or 12 men putting out the fire in the plane with fire extinguishers, hoses, whatever they could find," she said. "I think it's really amazing that a whole bunch of people came out and helped them. It was a really selfless act."

Wayne Hooper, 62, said he heard the crash and saw smoke. He saw neighbors working to extinguish the fire as firefighters began working to free the last two people from the wreckage.

Dino Mavroudis, who lives a block away on Salzburg Avenue, said he heard the plane crash and saw emergency crews responding to the scene moments later.

"It was just a boom," he said. "It shook the house."

The names of the victims weren't being released Monday. Residential roads in the area were closed into the evening.

Crews late Monday used a crane to load the wreckage onto a flatbed truck. The pieces were taken to a secure location, where investigators will work to determine what caused the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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