Investigators Search for Clues in Grand Canyon Crash
MEADVIEW, Ariz. (AP) _ One of a Grand Canyon sightseeing airplane’s two engines wasn’t working when the plane crashed, killing 10 people, an investigator said Saturday.
The Cessna 402 from Las Vegas-based Adventure Airlines crashed Friday afternoon after taking off from a remote airstrip at the western edge of the canyon.
Jim Kolstad, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said an examination of the wreckage showed that the right engine wasn’t operating when the plane hit the ground. The left engine was working normally, he said.
The airplane had just lifted off from Grand Canyon West Airstrip on the Hualapai Indian Reservation for a return flight to Las Vegas when the pilot sent a distress call, said Jim Bettis, a mechanic at the airstrip.
″He radioed to another one of the pilots, ‘I’m in trouble,’ then went into a right spin,″ Bettis said. ″He did the best he could. He tried to land but he didn’t have enough forward motion.″
Bettis said he rushed to the wreckage of the red-and-white, 10-passenger aircraft and crawled inside, where he found no survivors.
″I was the first one in there. I took all their pulses. They were all strapped in,″ Bettis said.
The plane was about 150 feet in the air and 1,000 yards southwest of the airstrip when it experienced trouble and crashed in the sagebrush, hitting on its right wing and spinning to the left on impact, according to Bettis.
The scene indicated the pilot may have been trying to turn and get back to the field, authorities said.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jim Stull said the victims were an American pilot, two American couples, couples from Britain and Germany, and a German man. Their identities were being withheld until relatives had been notified. Stull said all were adults ages 20 to 40.
Adventure Airlines spokeswoman Barbara Hannel said the company had no comment.
Planes fly into the field, allow passengers to take bus trips down to the edge of the canyon and then reboard for the 75-mile trip to Las Vegas.
Since 1980, there have been 12 fatal crashes involving sightseeing aircraft and private planes in and around the Grand Canyon.