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NTSB Checks Transponder in Crash

January 30, 2001

STRASBURG, Colo. (AP) _ Aviation investigators are checking whether a faulty transponder played a role in the fatal crash of a plane carrying members of the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball team.

John Hammerschmidt, head of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation team, said Monday that traffic controllers didn’t get altitude data for the Beech King Air 200′s last moments of flight, indicating the transponder may not have been working.

That could point to problems with the plane’s electrical system, NTSB investigator Robert Benzon said.

``Maybe the transponder broke or the electrical system that powered the transponder was not functioning properly,″ Benzon said.

Aviation investigators said they have found no evidence that engine failure caused the plane to crash shortly after taking off from Jefferson County Airport on Saturday, killing all 10 aboard.

They also said small pieces of the plane had fallen to the ground before the crash, but after two days of scouring the site the cause remained unknown.

There were two Oklahoma State basketball players and six staffers on the plane when it crashed and burst into flames in a field 40 miles east of Denver. The pilot and co-pilot were also killed.

Investigators have also considered whether bad weather caused the crash _ the plane took off in light snow and with a visibility of one mile, while an icing advisory warned of a light to moderate threat.

The plane wasn’t de-iced before taking off but there wouldn’t have been much reason to do so because the plane went from a warm hangar straight to the runway and took off quickly, Benzon said.

Air traffic controllers told the NTSB they saw no sign of ice or anything out of the ordinary as the plane passed before them.

Witnesses said the plane climbed and banked hard to the right before it crashed. They told investigators the propeller plane’s engines revved and eased several times before the aircraft went down.

___

On the Net:

Oklahoma State: http://pio.okstate.edu

NTSB: http://www.ntsb.gov

FAA: http://www.faa.gov

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