Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fatal crash of East Coast Jets charter in Minnesota

aircraft accident sceneA chartered business jet (registration number N818MV) operating as East Coast Jets Flight ECJ 81, crashed this morning, July 31, 2008, near Degner Regional Airport, Owatonna, MN. On board the aircraft were two pilots and six passengers, all of whom died. The aircraft was completely destroyed.

Brad Cole, President of East Coast Jets, confirmed that the accident aircraft, a BAe 125 (AKA Hawker 800a) was operated by his company. He identified the two crew members as Clark Keefer of Bethlehem, PA and Dan D'Ambrosio of Hellertown, PA. News reports said that both pilots and five of the passengers perished at the scene of the accident. The sixth passenger died at a hospital a short time later.

In his statement, Mr. Cole said that the aircraft was chartered from East Coast Jets by Revel Entertainment to transport employees to Owatonna, MN from Atlantic City, NJ. According to Cole, the aircraft had departed from Lehigh Valley International Airport, Allentown, PA early this morning for a repositioning flight to Atlantic City International Airport before departing for Minnesota.

A news report about the accident in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune quoted witnesses who said that the aircraft "apparently landed on the 5,500-foot runway and either couldn't stop or tried to take off again." A witness on the ground said the plane tried to get airborne again before crashing wing first into a nearby cornfield.

Local media reports say that "severe storms" had passed through the Owatonna area earlier in the morning. MyFox Twin Cities said that wind gusts of 72 mph were reported in Owatonna around 8:35 a.m., but added that the severe weather seemed to "wrap up" shortly before 9AM.

"By the time it's believed the plane went down, the winds were down to 5 to 10 miles per hour out of the south," MyFox Twin Cities reported. The accident occurred between 09:30 and 10:00 local time.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dispatched a team to the accident site. They arrived at the crash scene late this afternoon. Several news reports this evening mentioned that the cockpit voice recorder and a flight management system already had been recovered from the wreckage and sent to the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C.

The Star Tribune has published a collection of still photos of the accident scene.

Condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of Clark Keefer and Dan D'Ambrosio, and to the families and friends of the passengers who died in this accident.

[Photo Source]