Five people were killed on Friday night after a medical services airplane destined for Reno crashed in Nevada. It appears that the plane broke apart prior to hitting the ground, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Before the crash, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for large portions of Nevada, per WFAA. There were winds of around 20 mph with gusts of about 30 mph and it was snowing steadily. The weather service said that visibility was less than two miles with a cloud ceiling of about 2,000 feet when the plane took off from Salt Lake City, Utah.
The plane crashed around 9:45 p.m. local time on February 27 near Stagecoach, Nevada, per Care Flight, a service provided through REMSA Health.
Care Flight offers air ambulance services from five different bases located in northern Nevada and northeastern California, according to its website. The alpine and high desert environment is challenging to fly in due to the unique conditions it poses during severe weather. According to Care Flight, these include visibility issues, like whiteouts or brownouts, as well as reduced air density that affects flying.
In the recent crash, pilot Scott Walton, 46; nurse and paramedic Edward Pricola, 32, and Ryan Watson, 27; and patient Mark Rand, 69, and his wife Terri Rand, 66, were all killed, as reported by CBS News.
“Our immediate focus is helping our team members and families, as well as the responding agencies,” the company said, per The New York Times.
Much remains unknown about the single-engine Pilatus PC-12‘s last flight, as it was not equipped with a flight recorder, NTSB Vice Chair Bruce Landsberg explained at a news briefing in Carson City, as reported by WFAA News and CNN.
A seven-member team from the NTSB was sent to the crash site to investigate on Sunday. Now, the team believes the plane broke apart in the air due to the location of some pieces compared to the main crash site.
“How do we know if the airplane broke up in flight? We found parts of the airplane one-half to three-quarters of a mile away,” said Landsberg, per WFAA News.
Robin Hays, a Stagecoach resident and former flight nurse, said she could hear the plane over her house.
“I knew the plane was in trouble,” she told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Her house rattled as it flew over.
“I knew it was going to crash. I was just hoping it wasn’t going to crash into my house,” she explained.
Hays spent years flying and said she understands how dangerous inclement weather can be for planes.
“It’s a calculated risk,” she said, per the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Aeromedicine is inherently dangerous.”
Interesting that no mention was made of weather radar events, much of the adverse conditions can be seen on different kinds of weather monitoring systems. It takes exceptional shear forces to rip a wing off, and they did not mention what the parts found elsewhere actually were. My guess is that something in the design or maintenance was not quite right
Possible air frame stress from a manufacturing defect. Wouldn’t be shocked if it were the case. Even then it takes a lot to break up an aircraft no matter size and shape.