The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Plane crash investigation still in early stages; two who died identified
BY SCOTT SHENK
WARRENTON—Investigators aren’t sure what led to the midair plane crash in Fauquier County Monday that killed two people on one plane and injured the pilot of the second plane.
It’s too early to tell, Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigator Jon Lee said during a Wednesday news conference.
“Our emphasis is working on the accident sites,” said Lee, calling it the “field phase” during which investigators focus on perishable evidence.
Lee said midair collisions are rare, but having a survivor is even more unusual.
One key to the investigation, he added, will be talking with that surviving pilot, 70-year-old Thomas Proven of Broad Run, an inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration.
He remains listed in good condition at Mary Washington Hospital.
Another key will be radio communications by the pilots, if there were any, Lee said.
Investigators haven’t been able to check flight recordings yet.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is handling the investigation because one of the two people killed in the crash worked for the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. department that otherwise would have investigated the crash. The Canadian agency is the counterpart there to the NTSB.
The midair collision happened shortly after 4 p.m. Monday in the Sumerduck area, about five miles from the Warrenton–Fauquier Airport.
Proven landed his 1965 Piper Cherokee at a nearby farm while the other plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza with the two aboard, caught fire and crashed into a wooded area near Silver Hill and Union Church roads.
Authorities on Wednesday identified the two who died on the Beechcraft.
James W. Duncan, a 60-year-old Maryland resident who was a doctor with the NTSB, owned the plane. Paul Gardella Jr., 57, of Burke, was also on the plane. He was a flight instructor and volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol in Washington.
Lee said officials haven’t yet determined who was flying.
The planes went down about a mile apart, and debris was scattered between the two crash sites.
When the planes collided, the Beechcraft was broken into at least two pieces, Lee said.
Eyewitnesses said the plane caught fire in the air and plummeted to the ground near numerous houses.
Proven’s plane remained mostly intact after the collision, and he was able to find the nearby field where he landed.
Investigators were combing over the wrecked Piper fuselage Wednesday. It rested in the open near a tree line where other parts, including one wing, were scattered. Some of the parts appeared to be from the other plane.
Jim Flanagan and his wife saw the crash landing.
The plane came “gliding almost with no sound,” said the 67-year-old, who owns Sumerduck Wood Farm.
“It hit the ground, glanced up as if it were a ramp and went right through the only opening in the tree line.”
Afterward, Flanagan said, Proven told him the two planes collided in the air “and that this was his only hope, was to find a field, which he did, very successfully.”
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436