Feds investigate Minn. plane crash

An aerial view of the wreckage from the crash of a small jet in Owatonna, Minn. Thursday, July 31, 2008. The crash killed at least eight people and one is missing. The passengers were traveling on business from Atlantic City, N.J.

The Pioneer Press, Sherri LaRose-Chiglo/The AP
Published: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 7:02 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 7:02 a.m.

OWATONNA, Minn. Federal investigators planned to spend Friday sifting through the wreckage of a small plane, looking for clues that might explain why it crashed near a regional airport a day earlier, killing all eight people on board.

The victims included two pilots and six passengers, all casino and construction executives who were heading to this city about 60 miles south of the Twin Cities for a business meeting.

The Raytheon Hawker 800 went down around 9:45 a.m. Thursday, shortly after severe weather had moved through southern Minnesota. The weather conditions, as well as the plane's structure, its systems and other factors, are being examined by the National Transportation and Safety Board, said John Lovell, the investigator in charge.

A cockpit voice recorder and a flight management system were recovered and sent to the NTSB lab in Washington to be analyzed.

The charter jet, flying from Atlantic City, N.J., to Owatonna, a town of 25,000, went down in a cornfield northwest of Degner Regional Airport, Sheriff Gary Ringhofer said. The wreckage was not visible from the airport, and roadways leading to the site were blocked off.

Debris was scattered 500 feet beyond the airport's runway. Late Thursday, the Dakota County coroner was on the scene working to identify victims.

Seven people were found dead at the crash site. One died later at a hospital.

Two other people who were supposed to be on board did not get on the flight, said Doug Neville, Department of Public Safety spokesman.

By late Thursday night, five of the victims had been identified. They are:

Karen Sandland, 44, a project manager on the Revel casino project who worked out of Tishman Construction's Newark, N.J. office, company spokesman Bud Perrone said.

Two pilots, Clark Keefer of Bethlehem, Pa. and Dan D'Ambrosio of Hellertown, Pa., according to Brad Cole, president of East Coast Jets, the company which owned the plane.

Two executives of APG International, a Glassboro, N.J. company that specializes in glass facades: Marc Rosenberg, the company's chief operating officer, and Alan Barnett, its assistant project manager, according to company spokeswoman Amelia Townsend.

Revel spokeswoman Valerie Edmonds confirmed that three Revel employees were killed in the crash, but said their identities would not be released until Friday at the earliest.

The airport lies alongside Interstate 35 as it skirts Owatonna's western edge. Its Web site describes it as "ideal for all classes of corporate aircraft use" with an all-weather instrument landing system.

Neville said the airport has no control tower, and pilots communicate with controllers in Minneapolis.

An hour before the crash, a 72 mph wind gust was reported in Owatonna, according to the National Weather Service. Witnesses said the crash occurred after the worst of the storm had passed, with the sky clearing and only light rain.

The weather service reported that by 9:35 a.m., winds had quieted to 5 mph, with visibility greater than 10 miles in the Owatonna area, though there was a thunderstorm about five miles from the airport.

The plane had been scheduled to land at 9:42 a.m., then take off at 11:40 a.m. for Crossville, Tenn.

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