LAFAYETTE — National Traffic Safety Board officials said the airplane which crashed in Lafayette Saturday morning was in the air for about a minute before clipping an electrical power line and crashing near a U.S. Post Office at the intersection of Verot School and Feu Follet roads, killing five of the six people on board.
During a briefing Sunday afternoon, NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said the aircraft took off from Lafayette Regional Airport at 9:22 a.m. Saturday en route to Atlanta, where its passengers planned to attend the Peach Bowl. It climbed to 900 feet, then began to turn as if returning to the airport. No distress call was sent from the pilot before air traffic controllers radioed a low-altitude warning to the plane as it descended through 700 feet.
Landsberg said the airplane was in the air for about a minute.
Jennifer Rodi, the NTSB's lead investigator on the case, said the evidence will be preserved and moved to a facility where an analysis can be made.
"The wreckage will be moved to a laboratory setting where we can do an analysis," Rodi said. "We should have it all collected by the end of the day tomorrow so we can do a detailed examination of the airframe and engines."
The crash took the lives of five of the six people onboard and left one other passenger in critical condition. A seventh victim, who was in her Jeep when the aircraft crashed nearby, is undergoing treatment for burns over 30 percent of her body in New Orleans.
Landsberg said he visited the crash site Sunday morning after his team arrived in Lafayette.
"I walked the debris field this morning," Landsberg said. "It's about a quarter mile long, in a specific direction."
According to Rodi, the aircraft's orientation to the ground was relatively flat at the time of impact.
"It did not come in nose-first," Rodi said. She also said one credible witness with aviation experience noted that the plane's landing gear was retracted at the time of the crash.
Rodi said that typically the investigators will look at the weather conditions, the pilot and their level of training, the airframe of the aircraft, and the engines of the plane in the investigation.
"We will be looking carefully at the pilot's training and experience on the aircraft," Rodi said.
The pilot, Ian E, Biggs, 51, was killed in the crash. He had been employed as the pilot and aircraft manager for Global Data Systems, whose owners operated the Piper Cheyenne which crashed, since April 2001. The Federal Aviation Administration certification database showed that Biggs has held a commercial pilot multi-engine rating since 2005.
The aircraft, a Piper Cheyenne twin-engine turboprop, was manufactured in 1980.
Complicating the investigation is the fact that the airplane was not equipped with a flight data recorder.
"We have two videos that have been sent to us," Rodi said. "We have the radar track, so we have a pretty good idea of the flight path."
Landsberg said that there were no conclusions or any analysis of the data at this time.
"It could take several months before an analysis is finished," Rodi said.
The victims killed in the crash include:
• Ian E. Biggs, 51, the pilot.
• Robert Vaughn Crisp II, 59, vice president of business development and field services for GDS.
• Carley Ann McCord, 30, WDSU-TV sports broadcaster and daughter-in-law of LSU Football Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger.
• Gretchen D. Vincent, 51, wife of GDS President Chris Vincent.
• Michael Walker Vincent, 15, son of Chris and Gretchen Vincent.
Stephen Wade Berzas, 37, the vice president of sales for GDS, remains hospitalized and in critical condition. Danielle Truxillo Britt, a store manager at a business adjacent to the crash site on Feu Follett Road, suffered from burn injuries while in a Jeep near the scene at the time of the crash.