Crews remove large plane debris from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport crash site

Contractors hired by the National Transportation and Safety Board work to remove parts of the King Air that crashed into the roof of the FlightSafety building last week. (Nov. 3, 2014)
Contractors hired by the National Transportation and Safety Board work to remove parts of the King Air that crashed into the roof of the FlightSafety building last week. (Nov. 3, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Construction crews brought in heavy equipment Monday morning to retrieve large pieces of a plane from the roof of a building where the aircraft crashed last week at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, authorities said.

Crews have stopped sifting through rubble inside a very unstable FlightSafety building where a Beechcraft King Air B200 crashed Thursday into the structure’s roof, killing four people.

But the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency charged with investigating the crash, hired contractors to bring in a crane and other equipment to remove parts that included the fuselage and cockpit.

“They’re hoping to get it done before the weather comes in,” Stuart Bevis, a battalion fire chief with the Wichita Fire Department, said Monday morning.

Light rain, whipped by gusty winds, began to fall in the early afternoon, but crews were able to remove parts of the plane from the roof.

The plane’s right engine was expected to be removed Monday. The left engine, which the pilot told the air-traffic control tower had failed shortly before the plane crashed, was removed Friday, according to a report presented at Monday’s Wichita Airport Advisory Board meeting.

The NTSB had hoped to finish Monday, but Bevis said Monday afternoon the agency expects it will have to keep working the site Tuesday. No work was being done inside the badly damaged building while crews were on the roof, he added.

“It’s not safe,” Bevis said.

The bodies of three victims who were killed inside the building were removed Friday. The pilot’s body was taken off the roof Saturday.

The bodies are still being examined by the Sedgwick County coroner, Bevis said. He didn’t know when identities of the victims would be released.

The pilot was identified as Mark Goldstein, 53, last week by Wichita police. Friends and family have identified two of the three killed inside the building as Jay Ferguson, 78, and Nataliya Menestrina, 48.

Menestrina, a native of Ukraine who has lived in Wichita since 2001, was inside a flight simulator for a Cessna 208 Caravan working for FlightSafety as a Russian translator, said Larry Menestrina, her husband.

All three victims inside the building were found in the Caravan simulator, authorities have said. The third person killed inside the simulator was a Russian pilot.

In an attempt to confirm whether its pilot was the one who was killed, an official with Tomsk Air – a Russian commercial airline – sent an e-mail to The Eagle asking about the man.

The pilot, Sergey Galitskiy, 54, had just begun training in FlightSafety’s Cessna 208 Caravan simulator last week, Luibov Ban, planning manager for Tomsk Air, said in the e-mail.

Galitskiy was supposed to be in the simulator on Thursday, when the plane crashed into the roof shortly before 10 a.m., Ban said. Tomsk Air heard about the crash and has been unable to reach Galitskiy on his cellphone, Ban said.

Galitskiy has been a pilot for about 30 years, including flying helicopters, Ban said. Galitskiy is from the town of Kolpshevo in the Tomsk region in western Siberia.

During Monday’s briefing near the crash site, Bevis said there hasn’t been a flareup of fires since some brief ones Saturday.

The cockpit voice recorder has been recovered by the NTSB, but it’s not clear whether the agency has also found another electronic data recording device that officials have said was on board.

Some of the traffic restrictions at the airport have eased, Bevis said. But the section of South Airport Road near the crash site remains blocked off, mainly so large equipment can get access to the area, he added.

Contributing: Molly McMillin of The Eagle

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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