The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report into the small plane crash in Fountain Run, Kentucky that killed three adults and one teenager. Although the report does not list any causes for the fatal small plane crash, it does provide information into what witnesses saw immediately before the accident and gives an account of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
Group Returning from Hunting Trip Perishes in Small Plane Crash
Killed in the November 12, 2017, crash were:
- Scott T. Foster, 41, an attorney from Somerset, Kentucky
- Noah Foster, 15, Scott’s son
- Kyle P. Stewart, 41, a dentist from Somerset, Kentucky
- Doug Whitaker, 40, a chaplain with the Somerset police department.
The four were on a duck hunting trip in Tennessee and were on their return flight to Lake Cumberland Regional Airport in Somerset when their 1965 Piper PA-32 crashed in Fountain Run at around 3:20 p.m. No causes for the crash have been released, but a deer hunter was in the area and heard the plane’s engine revving and slowing just before it crashed.
“[The witness] said it was revving up, then sounded like it shut off,” said Barren County Coroner Time Gibson. “It did that three-four times.”
Officials said it took 15 minutes to get from the road to get to the crash site. Once there, they noted the plane likely hit at least three trees. The three adults died at the scene. Noah Foster was alive, but in critical condition when rescuers reached him and later died in the hospital.
FAA and NTSB Investigating Piper PA-32 Crash
Both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the NTSB are investigating the plane crash. The NTSB released a preliminary report, and although it does not give any probable causes for why the plane crashed, it does set out the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
Foster both owned and piloted the Piper PA involved in the crash. The plane and its passengers left Union City, Tennessee, at around 2:00 p.m., traveling east for approximately 30 minutes before heading northeast. At 2:56 p.m., the plane moved to around 7,000 feet and soon after that made erratic left and right turns before making a final sharp right.
Following that, the plane plummeted more than 4,000 feet in 30 seconds and lost contact. A witness told investigators that the aircraft was “in a nosedive” before it crashed into the trees.
The aircraft was “destroyed during an in-flight break-up and collision with trees and terrain following a loss of control,” the NTSB report states.
Speaking with reporters, NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Brian Rayner said most parts of the airplane were found in the trees behind him.
“Several pieces associated with flight control services of the airplane were found as far as a mile away from the main wreckage,” he said.
According to the NTSB, weather data showed clouds between 2,000 and 8,000 feet around the crash site.
Foster was not rated for instrument flight and did not obtain any weather briefing before his flight took off. Furthermore, the pilot did not file a flight plan.
A full report may not be available for more than a year.
Witness Describes Private Plane Accident Scene
News reports later identified the witness as Chad Russell, who was hunting in the area with his daughter. He saw the plane and led emergency crews to the crash site.
“I couldn’t believe it with my own two eyes,” Russell said. “I just happened to look up and see it in a nose dive going down. I was in shock.” He added, “I couldn’t see [the plane] any more once it got into the tree tops. I lost it once it got into the trees. I was scared. I was terrified.”
Victims of Kentucky Plane Crash Remembered
A friend of Foster said Foster was meticulous about ensuring his plane was properly maintained. Other friends and colleagues remembered Foster as having a great heart that was full of compassion and very giving.
Captain Mike Correll with the Somerset police, remembered Whittaker as a man who would do anything to help police officers and their families.
“He was always there for our officers and our community,” Correll said.
Whittaker had been a chaplain for the police department, but took an educational break before returning to his position in August 2015.
Meanwhile, Stewart’s colleague described him as being happy-go-lucky and able to light up every room he walked into.
Noah Foster was described as a “genuine, caring soul” and a student with an ability to be successful at anything he put his mind to. Grief counselors were on site at Pulaski County High School for students and staff to talk to, while 200 students held a prayer vigil for Noah at the start of school, after the plane crash.