NTSB: Plane crash occurred during thunderstorm

By The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. — Federal investigators say a plane crash in Mississippi that killed three members of a Georgia family in 2012 came during a severe thunderstorm.

The July 8, 2012, crash near New Site in north Mississippi killed James Bartley Jr.; his wife, Terry Bartley; and their youngest daughter, Caroline Bartley. Barley had a podiatry practice in Columbus, Ga.

The family was flying from their vacation home in the North Carolina mountains to the University of Mississippi, where Caroline Bartley was a student.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a factual report on the accident this past week. The report offers no conclusion on the cause of the crash of the single-engine Piper Cherokee Lance.

The NTSB said severe thunderstorms were located in the flight path filed by Bartley. The NTSB said Bartley acknowledged the weather buildup in communication with air traffic controllers in Memphis, Tenn., and told controllers he was planning to deviate from his original course to find a way around the storm.

The NTSB said weather information from surrounding airports and the National Weather Service indicated significant thunderstorm activity in the area in close proximity to the plane’s flight path. The report states the plane was not equipped with its own weather radar system but had a receiver for XM WX Satellite Weather, a real-time, high resolution weather service used by pilots of small to medium-sized aircraft.

“According to an eyewitness, the airplane was observed entering a cloud. He then heard the engine ‘revving,’ ‘a loud pop’ that was not associated with any thunder, and then saw pieces of the airplane coming out of the cloud. He further reported that there was ‘a lot of wind’ coming from a southerly or westerly direction and that he was watching a ‘really bad thunderstorm’ approach,” according to the report.

Debris was scattered over about half a mile in a wooded area, Prentiss County Emergency Management Director Ralph Lauderdale said at the time. The fuselage containing the passengers plunged into the ground, and it took almost two hours to find it. A medical helicopter eventually spotted it and guided searchers to the wreckage.

The NTSB reported parts of the plane were found scattered over a large area with pieces found as far as 1,470 feet away from the main wreckage. The crash left a crater 14-feet long and the engine was found buried 53-inches into the ground.

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