Federal investigators are expected to release a preliminary report this week with details about the crash of a private airplane that killed Ice Road Truckers star Darrell Ward and his co-pilot in Montana.
Darrell Ward, 52, who rose to fame on the History Channel’s hit series Ice Road Truckers, was flying to Missoula, Mont., from Dallas, Texas, Aug. 28 when the single-engine Cessna airplane he was flying in crashed in Rock Creek, a few miles southeast of Missoula.
Mr. Ward was headed to Montana with and his co-pilot, Mark Melotz, 56, to film a pilot episode for a new documentary series about the recovery of plane wrecks.
Missoula County Sheriff’s captain Bill Burt told the Associated Press that the plane was attempting to land at a small airstrip, reportedly at Stone Creek, when “something went drastically wrong.”
Witnesses said the Cessna appeared to stall before plummeting into some trees. Missoula County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Dunster said the plane crash was so severe that emergency crews on the scene could not identify the bodies at the scene. Coroners will likely use dental remains and DNA to positively identify the bodies, the Sheriff’s office said.
Mr. Ward was a fan favorite on Ice Road Truckers, a documentary series that chronicles the extreme and dangerous challenges truckers face while hauling cargo to remote destinations in the northern reaches of the Alaska and Canada. Known for his fearlessness and his willingness to give other truckers a helping hand, Mr. Ward was scheduled to appear in a new season of the show. It would have been his fifth season.
According to Hollywood Life, Mr. Melotz had purchased the Cessna 182 just two days before the crash. Authorities have contacted the previous owner of the airplane, Helena’s Independent Record reported.
According to Flying magazine, the four-seat, single-engine, light airplane is a solid airplane fit for beginners, but it also has some qualities that give it a “propensity to crash,” according to Heavy.com.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent one investigator who specializes in Cessna crash investigations and an official from the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Flight Standards District office in Helena to investigate. Parts of the wreckage were being sent to Bozeman for further analysis.
The NTSB often releases a preliminary report within the first couple of weeks of an investigation, usually outlining the known facts. Final reports detailing the cause of the crash normally take a year or longer to finish.