A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the wreckage behind Harbes Pumpkin Farm in Mattituck as they determine probable cause of yesterday morning’s fatal plane crash.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell confirmed the crash of the Beechcraft A36m aircraft, which resulted in the death of a man and a woman whose identities have not yet been released, occurred around 9:15 Saturday morning, June 8, after alleged mechanical issues led to the pilot attempting to land in the farm field.
Representatives from Harbes Farm said in a press statement that they witnessed a low-flying plane crash and catch fire in the rear field, adding in a revised statement to The Independent, “Firefighters, police officers, and rescue personnel arrived at the scene within minutes and put out the ensuing fire. While en route to the scene, Edward Harbes recovered a dog that was found to have been an occupant of the plane. The dog appeared to be in good health and has been reunited with its family. This is a sad tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the passengers of the aircraft.”
The MacArthur Airport commissioner said the aircraft left Runway 6 around 9 AM that morning with the ultimate destination being New Bedford, MA, according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. The incident is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration and, at press time, Southold Town Police said Chief Martin Flatley was working on an updated press release to this developing story.
UPDATE: “It’s hard to find the words for family members,” Senior Air Safety Investigator Brian C. Raynor told The Independent Sunday afternoon.
“Hopefully we can explain this tragedy and that will help them. At headquarters I have an air traffic specialist who is way out in front of this thing. They’ve already secured radar data and communication data. It’s already archived in computers and we’ll get that. I’ve got a preliminary radar track that will help us understand his position/altitude and we’ll compare that to aircraft performance and what we can expect the airplane could provide to the pilot in the circumstances.”
Raynor said the pilot declared an emergency due to a loss of engine power.
“Whether that was total loss, partial, or the engine was surging, I don’t know,” he said. “We have eyewitness accounts, we have surveillance video of the airplane — a sort of wide shot showing the airplane traversing the property before it disappears from view right before ground contact that doesn’t offer a great deal of fidelity, but it does give us a better understanding of the final stages of the flight.”
He said the airframe is significantly damaged by fire, but the National Transportation Safety Board was able to establish “control continuity from the cockpit area to all the flight control services and don’t see any signs of pre-impact mechanical anomaly of the airframe.”
As of 1 PM on Sunday, June 9, NTSB was recovering the engine to be transported to Southold Police’s impound garage where the investigators plan to see if they could complete examination or suspend the exam and transport the engine elsewhere to do a detailed analysis.
“We’ve got a pretty strong confidence we know where the maintenance records are and no idea where pilot log books might be, but we do have family contact information that, when the time is right, we will reach out to them and ask if they can help us in that regard. Right now it’s not a primary concern.” Raynor confirmed that the preliminary report will be published online in a week to 10 days. Afterward, he will write a factual report that will ultimately be presented, along with collected evidence, to the board, which determines probable cause.