NTSB confirms skydiving crash the worst US civilian accident since 2011

1437
June 24, 2019
Skydiving crash hawaii
NTSB Investigator Eliott Simpson briefs board member Jennifer Homendy at Hawaii skydiving crash. Photo: NTSB

A skydiving crash Friday that killed 11 people at a coastal airfield on the island of Oahu is the worst civilian aviation accident in the US since 2011 and in Hawaii since 1981.

The twin-engine Beechcraft King Air operated by the Oahu Parachute Center veered to the left and crashed on take-off Friday, ending up inverted and on fire near an airport fence.

The weather is understood to have been clear at the time with a light wind.

The National Transportation Safety Board also confirmed the plane suffered substantial damage to its tail section in 2016 during an accident in California where the pilot lost control.

The US crash investigator has a team of 11 people from around the US looking at the accident, including specialists in structures, powerplants and operations.

It has also called for witnesses with information, photos or videos to come forward.

READ: FAA bans flights over Iran as tensions escalate.

“This is the deadliest accident involving a civilian airplane I n the United States since 2011, “ NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy told reporters in Hawaii Sunday, adding that investigators would be collecting perishable evidence such as log books and records from the scene over the next three or four days.

Homendy pointed to special investigative report into parachute jump operations published in 2008 that looked at 32 accidents occurring between 1981 and 2008 and identified recurring safety issues.

These included inadequate aircraft inspections and maintenance, pilot performance deficiencies and inadequate federal oversight of skydiving operations.

“We have no idea whether any of those issues are factors in this accident but it’s something we will keep in mind as we will be evaluating and analyzing the facts around this investigation,” she said.

Asked if the plane was overloaded, the NTSB official said the plane was outfitted for 13 people but noted that weight and balance were also factors and would be part of the investigation.

Investigators would also be looking at the quality of the repairs done after the 2016 accident and whether it was inspected and passed as airworthy before being returned to service, she said.

CNN reported that army veteran and professional parachute demonstrator Larry Lemaster was among the people killed.

“I don’t have an explanation for the utter tragedy that has happened,” wife Anna Elkins wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.

“But Larry Lemaster would never want one person to waste a single minute of their life mourning his. He was doing what he loved. We spoke about this on many occasions.”

A preliminary report was expected in the next 10 to 14 days, Homendy said.