Plane crash site cleared, but investigation is just beginning

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 12:42 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2021 at 1:03 PM EDT
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THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The National Transportation Safety Board appears close to wrapping up its work at the site of a plane crash that killed two people this week.

Investigators said Tuesday they’d be on the scene for two to four days, gathering time-sensitive evidence from the crash that killed pilots Raymond Bachman, 73, of Fountain Hills, Ariz., and Claude Duchesne, 63, of El Paso, Texas.

The only evidence left there Friday morning was a chunk of fuselage from the plane that had a 24-foot-long and 6-foot-wide cabin. Around 1 p.m. an equipment operators started moving it around in apparent preparation for its removal. A long trailer awaited it on the roadway, and News 12 was the only media on the scene as the wreckage was loaded onto the trailer.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: WRECKAGE OF PLANE IS CLEANED UP, LOADED FOR TOWING

Plane crash cleanup

Days earlier, there had been a large debris field in a pasture along the 3100 block of Wrightsboro Road just west of the Thomson McDuffie County Airport.

From Thomson, the debris will be sent to Griffin, Ga., where investigators will spend time poring over it and other evidence to determine the cause of the crash.

It will be quite some time before we know that cause; the agency said it would issue its findings in a year and a half to two years.

Investigators will be looking at a number of factors, including the plane, the conditions, the pilots and other circumstances that might have led to the crash. They have recovered the cockpit voice recorder, which they hope will offer insights.

Before the report on the cause is issued, we should hear from investigators at least one more time when they issue a statement in about a week. We likely won’t learn much more than we already know because that statement will be little more than a list of known facts.

The crash happened around 6 a.m. Tuesday when the Dassault Falcon 20 slammed into the ground and trees while trying to land at the Thomson-McDuffie County Airport.

The twin-jet plane had taken off from Lubbock, Texas, on one of the overnight cargo-carrying missions that made up many of its itineraries with Pak West, a division of small California-based carrier Sierra West Airlines.

Although the airline is headquartered in California, most its planes, like the Falcon 20, are based in El Paso. With a fleet of nine propeller and jet aircraft, the airline with fewer than 100 employees offers on-demand charter service for passengers as well as cargo service.

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