A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said there is strong evidence of landing gear troubles on a small experimental plane that crashed into a northern Hartsville neighborhood this past weekend, killing three people.
Lead NTSB investigator Todd Gunther said one of the men on board the plane texted a family member to say that the plane was experiencing a problem with its landing gear. He said Monday that evidence from the wreckage appears to confirm that.
“What we have determined so far is that the landing gear was not up, nor was it down. It (was) in what we commonly refer to as the “in trail” position,” he told reporters during a Monday briefing. “So we are currently digging deeper into that system to determine what may have caused that.” He added that the left gear and main gear were partially extended, while the gear doors on the right side were in the cl0sed position. NTSB officials said they found evidence suggesting someone on the doomed plane had tried to open an inspection panel that would allow them to access the landing gear system.
However Gunther said it was not clear if the landing gear issues caused the crash. He said the plane’s wings were up, which is not the plane’s landing position. But there was no evidence of structural or engine failure and the plane had fuel, investigators said.
Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee identified the three victims as Joseph Loflin II, 29, of Pelzer; his father-in-law George Rogers, 61, of Society Hill; and Leslie Bradshaw, 75, of Hartsville. Officials still have not said which of the three were flying the kit-built Lancair IV-P aircraft.
The turboprop plane was a kit-built aircraft that seated four people. The Federal Aviation Administration had licensed it, Gunther said.
The NTSB crews will continue their work into Monday evening. Gunther said a preliminary report would likely be released in about a week.