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Plane owned by tourism fighter company took off from Henderson before crashing


Ricardo Torres-Cortez

The Henderson operations center of Sky Combat Ace, a tourism fighter jet company, are seen Saturday, May 1, 2016.

Updated Monday, May 2, 2016 | 9:28 a.m.

A single-engine aircraft that crashed Saturday amid dark skies and rain, killing an instructor pilot and a passenger, belonged to a tourism fighter plane company that allows customers to operate planes with instructors’ assistance.

Authorities were alerted about 5 p.m. Saturday that an Extra EA-300 aircraft belonging to Sky Combat Ace had crashed minutes earlier about 4 miles east of Las Vegas Boulevard and a half-mile south of 8 Mile Mine Road, Henderson Executive Airport spokeswoman Linda Healey said Sunday. Earlier reports had suggested the crash occurred farther south.

The plane had taken off about 4 p.m., said Megan Fazio of Sky Combat Ace's parent company, Vegas Extreme Adventures. The company sent out a search plane, then learned just after 4:45 p.m. that the missing plane had crashed near a Jean dry lake bed, Fazio said.

The Clark County Coroner's Office said 37-year-old Benjamin Anderson Soyars of Las Vegas and 32-year-old Steve Anthony Peterson of Rohnert Park, Calif., died of blunt force injuries. Their deaths were ruled an accident.

No distress calls were received from the plane, Fazio said.

About the same time the plane took off, thunderstorms moving southwest from Boulder City were blanketing the area of the crash, National Weather Service meteorologist Caleb Steele said Sunday. The plane “almost certainly” would have been flying in stormy weather if it was anywhere near the area of the crash, he said.

Sky Combat Ace, which operates out of Henderson as well as Gillespie Field near San Diego, bills itself as offering a “whole new level of adrenaline” on its website and touts a “perfect safety record,” with no injuries reported since its opening in 2011. It also states that it operates “7 days a week, 365 days a year."

The company compares the passenger experience to that of “a steely-eyed fighter pilot at the controls of your very own fighter jet, pulling Gs and squeezing the trigger.” It says its planes are equipped with dual flight controls, allowing an instructor pilot to take over in the “unlikely event that it becomes necessary."

Metro Police and the Clark County Fire Department did not respond to questions about whether a passenger or a pilot was in control at the time of the crash. A sign at Sky Combat Ace's Henderson office said the business will be closed until May 9.

The National Transportation Safety Board is taking over the investigation, Healey said.

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