NTSB: Lansing plane crash investigation could take months | State & region

The three Virginia men who died in a private plane crash in Fayette County on Sunday were brought back from a white-water rafting trip, according to a social media post from one of the victims’ sister’s sister.

West Virginia state police on Sunday night identified the victims as Nick Fletcher, 38, Michael Taphouse, 36, and Wesley Farley, 39, all from the Chesapeake, Virginia area, but federal investigators said Monday it could take months to do so find out cause of fatal crash.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were at the crash site on Monday.

The plane, a single-engine Beechcraft C23, left New River Airport, a private airport located in a 650-acre housing estate in Lansing, NTSB Public Information Officer Keith Hollaway said Monday.

Brian Rayner, an aviation safety investigator with the NTSB, said Monday morning that the NTSB and FAA are in the early stages of investigations.

“Immediately after take-off you saw the plane make a steep left turn and then crash into trees,” said Rayner.

Soldiers JJ Stewart and AE Roberts investigated the first report of the Lansing crash around 10:09 a.m. Sunday.

Officials discovered the victims and the crashed plane behind a barn on private property on Opossum Creek Road in Lansing. They then notified the FAA and NTSB, both federal agencies, of the crash.

The NTSB is leading the investigation.

Stewart and Roberts also identified the victims on Sunday and notified Chesapeake, Virginia authorities so that the victims’ families could be notified, Stewart said.

Fletcher and Taphouse had a family connection while Farley was a friend, according to a post from Fletcher’s sister.

An FAA public information official first reported on Sunday that the plane was leaving Fayette Airport in Fayetteville, a private airport closer to Nickelville Road.

Prior to the FAA’s release on Sunday, a private pilot in Raleigh County told the Register-Herald that the plane had left New River Airport. The pilot reported that the runway at New River Airport, also known as The Landings @ Wild Rock, is shorter than average and the land around the runway is also leafy.

New River Airport is available to community residents and others who have permission to use it, the owners reported.

Rayner said the investigation will branch out and include an assessment of the pilot’s qualifications and overall and recent flight experience, as well as the vehicle’s maintenance history and factors such as weather or air traffic considerations.

“Unless we run into anything unusual, I expect it will be ready in about a year,” said Rayner. “If you have three deaths, you are talking about three different families, their extended families, their friends, their neighbors, their colleagues.

“It spreads from a great distance,” he added. “Well, it is certainly a tragedy and we treat it as such.

“We will do our best and I have the best in the world to help me, so I am confident that there are no guarantees, but I am confident that we can explain this tragedy to those affected”.

Two FAA inspectors were at the crash site Monday while a third worked off the premises.

Experts from the aircraft manufacturer and engine manufacturer are also assisting the data collection process, and a removal company will assist during the investigation phase, Raynor reported.

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