The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent investigators to the site of a plane crash that occurred Monday afternoon when a Cessna 150 plummeted from the sky and slammed into the ground in a Massachusetts cemetery, killing the pilot.
NTSB air safety investigator Lynn Spencer told reporters that a team is collecting wreckage from the Rural Cemetery in New Bedford, where the plane crashed about 3:30 p.m. Monday, killing pilot Paul Vidal of Westport, Massachusetts.
Mr. Vidal,74, was the sole occupant of the airplane. Investigators said the plane crashed perilously close to a few houses on the edge of the old cemetery but that nobody on the ground was hurt.
The airplane took off from New Bedford Regional Airport and had been in the air for about 40 minutes before crashing. The NTSB said that multiple witnesses captured the plane’s final moments on cell phone video. Investigators are reviewing the videos for clues and talking with witnesses.
Videos posted online showed the plane in a nosedive as it fell to the ground with the engine throttling loudly. The aircraft then disappears below the treeline.
Some witnesses told investigators that the plane was flying wildly before the accident. One person said he expected the plane would swoop up into the sky after the nosedive. Another man told Boston 25 News that “the guy was doing acrobatic moves” and lost control.
However, the NTSB cautioned people about making such statements.
“Sometimes when things go wrong in an airplane – these are complicated machines – and sometimes it may look like someone is doing intentional acrobatic maneuvers when they are not,” NTSB investigator Spencer said.
Mr. Vidal’s wife, Carol Vidal, also rejected claims that her husband was performing aerobatic maneuvers.
“He was a good pilot. I don’t know what happened. He said it was risky and it was stupid to try and do acrobatics like that, so no, he wasn’t doing it. Something went wrong. I don’t know what, I have no idea,” she said, according to WJAR News 10 New Bedford.
In a video posted by WPRI-TV of Providence, Ms. Vidal also said that her husband always said that if he had to come down in a plane, he would do it in a way that wouldn’t hurt anybody.
Federal Aviation Administration records show that Mr. Vidal was in good health and had been licensed as a private pilot since Feb. 2010. Ms. Vidal said her husband had no health problems and that they had just run a 5K race the day before the crash. “We were the oldest ones in the race, so, he was in good health.”
The NTSB said it would issue a preliminary report within a couple of weeks. Crews have moved the wreckage to a location Hartford, Connecticut, for further investigation.
“We look at the man, machine and the environment,” Spencer said, according to NBC 10 Boston. “So we are going to look at the pilot, his health, his fitness for flight, any medications. We will do a full assessment of that, as we will the aircraft, the weather, interactions with air traffic control.”
The NTSB’s final report would likely come in 18 to 24 months, she said.
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. Currently, Mike represents family members of victims in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.