NTSB: Minn. crash cockpit recorder in good shape

Friday morning briefing
National Transporation Safety Board member Steven Chealander, left, and John Lovell, lead investigator for the Owatonna plane crash that killed eight people on Thursday.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Federal authorities investigating Thursday's jet crash in Owatonna says the audio on the cockpit voice recorder is of good quality. The crash killed all eight aboard.

The National Transportation Safety Board's Steve Chealander says the tapes are now in Washington D.C. undergoing analysis.

He said the plane did not carry a flight data recorder, which records how the airplane is performing but another computer on board. may yield some clues.

Owatonna airport
The Degner Regional Airport in Owatonna, Minn.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

"The flight management computer has a lot of performance data and so forth. It doesn't have the same thing that a flight data recorder would have, but we will take anything we can get as far as speeds and that sort of thing, groundspeeds out of a flight management computer," Chealander said.

The NTSB says the plane also had a windshear avoidance system on board. Federal investigators have begun their first full day of investigating the crash.

Chealander said the public should not expect any conclusions soon. The investigation could take up to a year. He said the team is in the evidence-gathering stage, and is analyzing everything from witness interviews to flight conditions to airplane design.

"We have no idea whether one of them is more important than the other at this time. So we're looking at the weather, we're looking at the airplane, we're looking at the flight crews, we're looking at all aspects, to try to find the cause," said Chealander.

"We're looking at the weather, we're looking at the airplane, we're looking at the flight crews, we're looking at all aspects."

Several other groups that have an interest in the crash have arrived on the scene. They include Honeywell, which built the engines, the jet's designers and manufacturers.

The twin engine charter jet flew from Atlantic City, N.J., on a routine business trip, bringing customers from three East Coast development firms to Viricon, a glass manufacturer on the south side of Owatonna.

The jet went down in a cornfield northwest of Degner Regional Airport. Seven people were found dead at the site. One died later at a hospital. All of the bodies had been removed from the scene by Friday.

Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz called the accident a tragic loss, and said during a Friday afternoon briefing that the city will help victims' families in any way it can.

"Whether they are local people or citizens from out of our community, any time you have a loss of life our prayers go out to them," said Kuntz.

He said the city will also provide counseling and other assistance to the first responders of the crash.

Owatonna airport manager Dave Beaver said the airport has been under a temporary flight restriction since the crash, but the airport could begin operating again by Friday evening.

"The airport is a very important asset to the community of Owatonna. It's an economic development tool, widely used by the community, and we want to get that back online," Beaver said.

Manager of the Owatonna airport
Dave Beaver, manager of the Owatonna airport, was working the day of the Hawker 800 crash, but didn't see it.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Roy Redman, president of RARE Aircraft Inc., a mechanics company at the airport, said Friday that he was inside and heard the plane land on the runway.

Moments later, one of his mechanics who had watched the landing came running around the building, yelling that the jet had gone off the runway and disappeared in some trees in the distance.

Redman, who called 911, said the mechanic told him the jet landed, then went airborne, rolled and hit the ground.

Doug Neville, Department of Public Safety spokesman, said the airport has no control tower, and pilots communicate with controllers in Minneapolis and Rochester.

An hour before the crash, a 72 mph wind gust was reported in Owatonna, according to the National Weather Service. But witnesses said the crash occurred after the worst of the storm had passed, with the sky clearing and only light rain.

Chealander released new data about weather observations around the time of the crash. At 9:15 a.m., a northwest wind was blowing at 8 knots; at 9:35 a.m., 10 minutes before the crash, it had eased to 3 knots and swung to the south, making it a tailwind.

By Friday, all of the victims had been identified. They were:

- Karen Sandland, 44, a project manager for Tishman Construction Corp. who was working on the Revel project. Sandland worked out of Tishman's Newark office.

- Two pilots, Clark Keefer of Bethlehem, Pa., and Dan D'Ambrosio of Hellertown, Pa.

- Two executives of APG International, a Glassboro, N.J., company that specializes in glass facades: Marc Rosenberg, the company's chief operating officer, and Alan Barnett, its assistant project manager.

- Three Revel Entertainment executives: Tony Craig, 50, of Brigantine, N.J., and Chris Daul, 44, of Northfield, N.J., both of whom were vice presidents of construction development; and Lawrence "Chip" Merrigan, 62, of Absecon, N.J., the company's director of field operations.

"This is a sad time for Revel Entertainment," said company CEO Kevin DeSanctis. "These gentlemen were valued for their camaraderie as well as their professional expertise. The loss of their friendship and that of Karen Sandland of Tishman Construction will be keenly felt by all of us here."

Two other people who were supposed to be on board did not get on the flight, Neville said.

East Coast Jets declined to comment on the pilots' background Friday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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