NTSB releases Thomson plane crash report

An aerial view of the plane crash in McDuffie County. (WRDW-TV)
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

MCDUFFIE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- The National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the 2013 Thomson plane crash that killed five employees from The Vein Guys.

The crash happened as a plane was returning to the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport from Nashville on February 20, 2013. One of the plane's wings clipped a utility pole while trying to land, a report showed.

Click here for the full factual report. The report does not contain the probable cause which will be determined at a later date.

In the report, the NTSB included the pilot and co-pilot's history, how much they slept the night before and what they remembered from the takeoff, flight and landing.

Possible power line problem

In the report, the Thomson-McDuffie County airport "failed to meet federal requirements for precision and visual approaches" because of obstructions to the runway. The Thomson city administrator said, before 2012, Georgia DOT never reported the power line east of the airport as a "potential obstruction."

Georgia Power did not tell the FAA before building utility poles in 1989, the NTSB report found. After the accident, the FAA found the pole that clipped the wing of the Vein Guys' aircraft "exceeds obstruction standards... [and] is presumed to be a hazard to air navigation." The final report on the obstructions the FAA were looking into was not completed at the time of the NTSB report.

The pilot said he remembered checking the airplane's landing light switches to prepare for landing and the next thing he remembered was waking up in a hospital days later. The co-pilot said he didn't remember anything unusual about the takeoff nor landing, but that they were going 1 or 2 knots above the reference speed. The copilot said in a report that he remembered his pilot announcing the go-around before landing, but he didn't know why. In the report, he thought "it was going to be close."

The seats of the pilots were found in the cockpit, the report said. The other six passenger seats were found scattered across the crash site.


In the cockpit voice recorder from the day of the accident, the copilot said the ANTI SKID FAIL light was on upon landing. Witnesses said they either heard or saw the plane go around after touching down. The plane hit a utility pole trying to go around, collided into trees and caught on fire.

After listening to the recording, the pilot and copilot said in a report that they didn't remember the ANTI SKID FAIL light coming on and the pilot added he did not think the antiskid system was needed.

Pilots' sleep

The pilot called the day of the accident a "tough, tough" day because he needed to wake up four hours earlier than usual. In the report, the pilot said he slept for five hours at his house and then four hours in a pilot lounge that morning, but records show his phone made three outgoing calls between the listed sleeping time.

The copilot said he was able to sleep for a four to five hours in the pilot lounge after sleeping from around 9:45 p.m.-2 a.m. the night before the flight.

Toxicology results were negative for both pilots and the cause of death for all passengers was listed as blunt force trauma, the report showed.

Civil suits

In Sept. 2013, News 12 learned the families of the fatal plane crash victims at the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport filed civil suits in Fulton County Superior Court over the crash.

Some of the defendants named are the estate of Vein Guys co-owner Dr. Mary Anne Roth, wife of Dr. Steven Roth who died in the crash, city of Thomson, McDuffie County, the Thomson-McDuffie Regional Airport, Georgia Power Company. Georgia Power and its parent company Southern Company are the owners of the utility pole that was hit by the plane on its landing approach.

The families of Kim Davidson, Heidi McCorkle and Tiffany Porter all have similarly written lawsuits. However, Lisa Volpitto's family's lawsuit is notably different. That lawsuit leaves out the pilots of the plane as well as Dr. Roth's wife. Lisa Volpitto's husband also worked with the Vein Guys at the time of the crash.