Officials investigate cause of fatal plane crash

March 26, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

An investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board has ruled out an "in-flight breakup" or fire as the cause of the Baltimore County plane crash that killed three Harford County men Saturday morning, an official said yesterday.

Pilot Theodore C. Ryder, 45, Paul E. Sorensen, 48, and Timothy H. Conner, 48, all of Joppa, were aboard a six-seat Piper Saratoga that took off from Harford County Airport in Churchville at 9:06 a.m. Saturday. The three NASCAR fans were headed to Abingdon, Va., to attend a car race in Bristol, Tenn.

Nine minutes into the flight, the plane crashed in the backyard of a home in the first block of Country Club Drive in Jacksonville. No one was at the house at the time of the crash, and there were no injuries on the ground.

"The entire aircraft is right there at the accident site, so what that tells [the investigator is] there's not evidence of an in-flight break-up," said Ted Lopatkiewicz, a spokesman for the NTSB. "That's when the plane breaks up in the air. And there's also no evidence of an in-flight fire."

Todd Gunther, the air safety investigator assigned to investigate the accident, interviewed witnesses yesterday and will examine the engine, which was separated from the wreckage, in the next few days, Lopatkiewicz said. A preliminary report will be released in five to 10 days.

Gunther has not yet determined how fast the plane was traveling at the time of impact, which could indicate whether the pilot was attempting to land.

A more detailed report will be released in about eight months, but a final report - which will detail the cause of the crash - could take a year, Lopatkiewicz said. The NTSB investigates about 1,800 plane crashes a year, he said.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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