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NTSB: Small plane dropped rapidly in moments before crash at power lines SE of Madras, killing Idaho couple

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report on last month's fatal crash SE of Madras included this site diagram
A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report on last month's fatal crash SE of Madras included this site diagram

Report confirms plane hit static wire spanning 2 high-voltage transmission towers

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) – A small plane on a flight from the Portland area to Idaho descended 8,600 feet in 78 seconds before it clipped a wire atop a high-voltage power line and crashed southeast of Madras a month ago, killing the Idaho couple aboard, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report also confirmed what Jefferson County authorities said happened on the afternoon of Sunday, March 10, when David Hagerty’s Piper PA-32 struck a static wire (which carries no power) atop a 500-kilovolt power line and crashed in a remote area about five miles southeast of Madras, claiming the lives of Hagerty, 69, and his wife, Venita Hagerty, 63, of Caldwell, Idaho.

Preliminary radar tracking data showed the couple left Aurora State Airport shortly after 2 p.m. on a flight to Caldwell and headed east, ascending to 10,000 feet. About an hour later, it had climbed to just over 13,000 feet when it began to slow, from 118 knots to 78 knots, the report stated.

The plane then began a descending right turn, with the last data recorded at 3:03 p.m. at an altitude of 4,700 feet, 0.2 of a mile southwest of where the crash occurred.

Two witnesses about three miles northwest of the crash location told investigators they saw a plane dropping in a spiral toward the ground, one noting the plane was intact at the time. Another witness reported rain showers in the area when they heard the plane’s “loud engine noise,” the report said.

The Bonneville Power Administration reported a power line surge at that time and sent a crew to investigate. The crew found the wreckage around 7:40 p.m. and alerted authorities.

The NTSB said its site examination determined the plane struck a static wire that carried no power and spanned between two 100-foot-tall high-tension power line towers, then crashed between them.

“All the major structural components of the airplane were located within the wreckage debris,” the report said, while “a portion of the static wire was found near the right wing.”

The NTSB expects to release a more detailed final report on the fatal crash in 12 to 24 months.

Article Topic Follows: Accidents and Crashes

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