Federal investigators arrived at the scene of a medical transport airplane crash that occurred early Friday morning in wooded area near McKinleyville, Calif., killing all four people aboard.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) public information officer Eric Weiss said that investigators started collecting evidence at the crash site Sunday and will release a preliminary report in seven to ten business days.
The Piper Cheyenne airplane was owned and operated by Cal-Ore Life Flight, a unit of Reach Air Medical Services. The aircraft was flying from Jack McNamara Field at Crescent City Airport to Oakland International Airport.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other sources, the airplane took off at 12:29 a.m. carrying pilot Larry Mills, flight nurse Deborah Kroon, flight paramedic Michelle Tarwater, and an unidentified patient who was to undergo treatment at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the airplane just after 1 a.m. A search and rescue team deployed by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office located the crash site about 10 a.m. Saturday in some timberland belonging to Green Diamond Resource Company of Seattle.
The crash left a quarter-mile debris field in a treed area about five miles northeast of Arcata/Eureka Airport in McKinleyville, about 60 miles from its origin.
According to the FAA, Mr. Mills radioed air traffic controllers around 1 a.m. to report that there was smoke in the cockpit and that he was going to return to Crescent City. Officials on the ground lost contact with the airplane at 1:05 a.m.
“This is one of the saddest moments in our history,” Sean Russell, the president of Reach Air Medical Services, said in a statement. The company is planning memorial services for the crew to be held later this week.