UPDATE: NTSB continues plane wreck investigation

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News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

The NTSB holds its second news conference on the McDuffie County plane crash on Friday. (WRDW-TV)
The NTSB holds its second news conference on the McDuffie County plane crash on Friday. (WRDW-TV)

THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW)--The initial investigation continues into what lead to Wednesday night's crash.

"We are already in the process of beginning to move wreckage," said National Transportation Safety Board Member Robert Sumwalt at today's board meeting.

A major goal for investigators today, along with the continued hunt for a black box or any recording device from the corporate jet.

"As we start picking up wreckage, we do think that if there are recorders there that they will come to light as part of the wreckage retrieval," he said.

The investigation is still in early stages, but they're beginning to piece some things together.

"Prior to the accident, this was a normal flight," said Sumwalt. "And there were no distress calls or any unusual comments."

Investigators are looking at a number of sources for clues, from on sit surveillance footage to five witnesses, including the pilot and co-pilot who both survived the crash.

"We have established initial contact with first officer," Sumwalt said. "He and the pilot...will be interviewed at the appropriate time."

News 12 First at Five / Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW) -- Every day investigators hope to get a little closer to finding out what caused the fatal plane crash that claimed five lives. And even though there's not a lot left to work with, they have a lot of clues to consider.

Robert Sumwalt, a board member with the NTSB, says, "The scene is devastating and the stories behind it all, it's all devastating."

He deals with plane crashes like this on a regular basis, but he still describes it as "heartbreaking." But he says their job is to find out what happened.

"Our inspection of the runway did not find anything unusual," Sumwalt said.

They say there weren't any strange tire marks or debris on the runway, and, unfortunately, the surveillance video isn't very good.

"Airport security video briefly captures the accident airplane, but it is really grainy video," he said.

They'll be sending the video to Washington, D.C. to investigate more, but they say they have found other solid clues to help put this puzzle together.

"Voice communications, from pilot to controller, we've obtained that. And also, there's the radar data," he said.

The radar data will show them things like aircraft altitude, heading and ground speed that's taken every four to 12 seconds, but as for those voice recordings, he says, "All of the communications between the pilot and air traffic controllers can be described as normal. Nothing outstanding."

This leaves investigators to continue searching for a voice box from the plane in the wreckage or any other clues that could lead them to the answer of what caused this tragedy.

Initial report:

THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW) -- The National Transportation Safety Board held the last on-scene news conference about the McDuffie County plane crash on Friday.

A plane crashed near the Thomson-McDuffie County Regional Airport on Wednesday night, killing five.

NTSB Board Member Robert L. Sumwalt says this was the first full day of their investigation and that they had the aircraft designer on the scene to help.

Sumwalt says after analyzing air traffic control data, the flight appeared to be normal -- no distress calls or unusual comments were made. They also did not find anything unusual on the runway, like weird tire marks.

The airplane is thought to have been in tact prior to hitting the utility pole.

The NTSB is sending surveillance video from the airport to the lab in D.C. for further analysis.

Five witnesses have been interviewed so far. Sumwalt confirmed the two pilots survived the crash and will be interviewed at a later time.

The process of beginning to remove wreckage is starting on Friday, and Sumwalt says they hope to find a black box during their search.

Friday's weather is not ideal for investigators. Sumwalt says the scene is on a slope, so it will be slippery.

"It will slow down the recovery, but it will not affect the documentation of the wreckage since we've already done that," he said.

When asked why some perished and others did not, Sumwalt said, "That's a very complicated issue." He says this will be part of the long-term investigation.

News 12 has learned the names of four of the five victims killed in the crash: Dr. Steven Roth, Kimberly Davidson, Tiffany Porter and Lisa Volpitto.

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