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Plane that Crashed in Wetzel County Experienced “Rapid Descent”

Two Died in Sept. 5 Crash

September 20, 2017
BY LAUREN MATTHEWS - Editor ( , Wetzel Chronicle

A plane that crashed Sept. 5 in Wetzel County was lost on radar after experiencing a "rapid descent" from 8,000 feet to 3,000 feet after flying through moderate to heavy precipitation, a preliminary report issued today by the National Transportation Safety Board indicates.

The NTSB report notes the plane's pilot, Bill Searcy of Carterville, Ill., had notified air traffic control prior to the crash that he had entered an area of bad weather. He worked to avoid the weather front before asking air traffic control for a heading to land at the Parkersburg airport.

After being given clearance to land in Parkersburg, the airplane entered a "rapid descent from 8,000 feet until radar contact was lost at 3,000 feet."

Article Photos

Emergency responders gathered outside of the Wallace Volunteer Fire Department on Sept. 6, organizing a search for a plan that went missing from radar on Sept. 5.

There were no further radio communications with the airplane and air traffic control in Cleveland issued an alert notice.

Searcy and his wife, Pat, both died in the crash, which happened at approximately 11:48 p.m. Sept. 5. Emergency officials found the wreckage from the Cirrus SR20 airplane on Sept. 7 near Jacksonburg, W.Va. The NTSB report does not provide any additional cause for the crash.

The NTSB's report states that the airplane was found 1,500 feet from its last known radar position. An examination of the wreckage site revealed the airplane was completely fragmented, with the debris path being approximately 50 feet in length and containing "freshly cut tree branches." Flight controls and flight control instruments were destroyed.

According to the NTSB, the single-engine plane was manufactured in 2000, and was powered by a Continental IO-360ES engine, "which showed signs of heavy external impact damage." Accessory components were separated from the engine, and ignition system wires were damaged. The magnetos and vacuum pumps were separated and impact damaged, and the crankshaft could not be rotated due to impact damage.

According to the NTSB report, Searcy held a private pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA third-class medical certificate was issued on Feb. 24, 2016.

Searcy had reported 952 flight hours including 92 hours in the SR20, as of July 29.

As previously reported, the aircraft was discovered by ground crews at approximately 2 p.m. Sept. 7. The scene was a gully in a hilly area of Wetzel County near Jacksonburg.

According to the FAA, the plane departed Delaware Coastal Airport in Georgetown, Del. Its destination was Fleming-Mason Airport in Flemingsburg, Ky.

Delaware Coastal Airport Manager Jim Hickin said the plane was registered to SGLJ Inc. of Carbondale, Ill.

Harrison County Sheriff Robert Matheny said his office was notified of the missing aircraft at 9:30 a.m. Ground searches were conducted throughout the day, while at least one drone and a helicopter from the West Virginia State Police were used. After the aircraft was discovered, the case was turned over to Wetzel County Sheriff's Office deputies, who secured the scene until the FAA could arrive.



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