A 22-year-old college student who died in a plane crash that killed two others in San Antonio Sunday evening took to social media beforehand to express his excitement about flying in a small private plane, his friends said.
Eric Naranjo, a University of Texas San Antonio student, was headed back to Boerne, Texas, from Sugar Land after the Thanksgiving holiday when the single-engine Piper PA-24 Comanche he was in experienced engine trouble.
As the plane neared its destination, 38-year-old Robert Tyson Womble, believed to be the pilot, radioed air traffic controllers requesting clearance to make an emergency landing at San Antonio International Airport. The plane never made it and ended up plummeting into a street near the airport, killing Mr. Naranjo, Mr. Womble, and a 71-year-old woman who was not identified as of Tuesday afternoon. There were no others aboard the aircraft.
According to KSAT-TV San Antonio, Mr. Naranjo was a finance intern at an Austin investment company, the same company that employed Mr. Womble.
While approaching San Antonio, the pilot activated an alert that signaled the plane would attempt to make an emergency landing at San Antonio International.
“Engine failure, I need to land at international (airport),” the man said, according to audio reviewed by KSAT-TV.
“I’ve got traffic just north of the field that just declared engine failure, coming in to land,” a dispatcher is heard saying, according to KSAT.
The air traffic controller asks the pilot on which runway he can land. The pilot replies that the plane can “circle around for runway 4.” After that, the tower loses contact with the plane.
The FlightAware plane-tracking website shows the plane had reached the airport and looped around for a landing. The plane then nose-dived at more than 1,800 feet per minute and crashed into the 600 block of Rhapsody Drive, according to KSAT. Nobody on the ground was injured. Various reports say the aircraft was completely demolished. Emergency workers received the first calls of the plane crash at 6:26 p.m.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are leading an investigation of the plane crash. Crews had blocked off the area for several hours while they worked to document the plane crash site and recover aircraft debris.
The airplane wreckage and debris have been taken to a secure hangar in Dallas where NTSB investigators will try to reconstruct what could have gone wrong with the engine. Investigators will also look at the pilot’s training and experience and weather conditions at the time, as is customary in aviation accident investigations.
KENS Channel 5 San Antonio reported that the NTSB is asking anyone who may have witnessed the accident or captured it on video to contact investigators at eyewitness@NTSB.gov.
“It is unbelievable,” Maggie Sarrack, one of Mr. Naranjo’s friends, told KENS. “It is like living in a nightmare or a dream.”
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 families 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.