What caused a business jet to crash 10 minutes after taking off last month from Wichita, killing a California pastor and his pilot, hasn’t been determined yet, according to a preliminary federal investigation.
Pilots in the area at the time of the crash on Oct. 18 indicated light to moderate icing conditions above 6,000 feet, according to a report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board.
But the initial report didn’t conclude icing was the cause.
The 1975 Cessna Citation had reached 15,000 feet after taking off on a rainy, cloudy morning before running into trouble and crashing in a soybean field near Derby, killing both people on board.
It’s expected to be a year before NTSB completes its investigation and issues a final report.
Ed Dufresne, 72, a traveling pastor for World Harvest Church, and his pilot, Mitchell Morgan, 49, were killed. Both were from Murrieta, Calif.
Dufresne had spoken at a Wichita church the night before the crash and was headed to another speaking engagement. The flight’s destination was the New Braunfels Regional Airport in Texas.
The federal report said the flight left Mid-Continent Airport at about 10:07 a.m., which is eight minutes later than was initially reported by the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office on the day of the accident.
Preliminary data showed normal operations during the climb before the pilot contacted the Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center at 10:14 a.m. and reported leveling at 15,000 feet. The air traffic controller cleared the pilot to climb to 23,000 feet.
Over the next minute, the aircraft made an abrupt right turn, followed by an abrupt left turn, the report said. Radar showed the airplane descended to 14,600 feet before resuming a climb and reaching 15,200 feet at 20 seconds after 10:16 a.m.
The aircraft then made an abrupt descending left turn. Radar and radio contact was lost. The plane crashed about 10:17 a.m. and was destroyed on impact.
Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane below the clouds in a nose-down vertical dive, NTSB investigator Tom Latson wrote in the report. One witness reported that after impact he saw a fireball about 500 feet high, followed by a column of smoke.
Most of the wreckage was found near the impact crater, although an outboard portion of the left wing and the left aileron was located about 3,000 feet west of the main wreckage, the report said.
At the time of the crash, weather data showed there was a light rain. Cloud cover started at 1,700 feet and went to 21,000 feet.