MARIETTA, Ohio (WCMH) — The two pilots aboard a private plane never signaled that they or their aircraft were in danger in the moments before it crashed into a car dealer’s parking lot last month in southeastern Ohio.
A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board released Wednesday did not indicate a cause for the crash the morning of Oct. 18 and noted that the pilots communicated normally with controllers and were cleared for landing.
The pilots were Timothy F. Gifford, 49, of Orient, Ohio, and Eric S. Seevers, 45, of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Gifford was a Columbus firefighter who retired in May. Before that, he was a Liberty Township/Powell firefighter and paramedic from 1996 until 2007. FAA records showed both had their commercial pilot licenses, although the NTSB did not identify who was in control of the plane.
The FAA said the aircraft was a twin-engine Beechcraft BE9L, a small plane that can seat up to 10 people. The NTSB said the plane, which left John Glenn International Airport at about 6:40 a.m., crashed about three miles from its destination, a regional airport near Parkersburg.
Multiple eyewitnesses told the NTSB that they watched the plane flying “straight and level” before it suddenly descended steeply and spun vertically to the ground. The plane crashed and caught fire, consuming most of the cockpit and fuselage. Most parts of the plane suffered significant heat damage, but there were no indications of mechanical issues that might have caused the plane to crash.
The preliminary report indicated nearby pilots reported moderate icing conditions around the time of the flight, and weather satellite data showed supercooled liquid water clouds between 1,300 and 8,000 feet above sea level. The NTSB did not conclude that the weather impacted the flight, though the plane had safely descended to about 4,000 feet before descending uncontrollably.
Surveillance video from a nearby business showed the plane falling straight down out of the sky before crashing and exploding. The general manager of the Pioneer Buick GMC dealership, Rod Taylor, said only one person was in the building when the plane crashed and was on the opposite side from where the fire started that damaged 12 cars.