No cause determined for plane crash; witness says engine sounded wrong from take-off

The cause behind an airplane’s crash into an airport hangar in Addison has not been determined, but nine of the 10 people killed were identified Monday.

The deaths confirmed by the medical examiner and other sources include a family of four from Plano, two couples and a crew member.

The National Transportation Safety Board ’s investigation determined the plane was airborne when it veered to the left and rolled, hitting a hangar at Addison Airport on Sunday morning. Investigators do not know how high the plane was when it crashed, NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said at a press conference Monday.

The plane, a twin-engine Beechcraft BE-350 King Air, was flying a private party of people to St. Petersburg, Florida.

Investigation, what witnesses saw

David Snell, a pilot who saw the crash, said the plane was in the air for less than 10 seconds when it “fell out of the sky.” He said the plane sounded like it was not making enough power and was not climbing as it should have been.

“It didn’t sound right,” he said. “We looked at each other and said something’s wrong. Within seconds, it appeared as though it stalled, went 90 degrees and went right into the hangar. There’s no recovering from that.”

Snell described the plane’s engine as a fan that should be on high speed that was instead running on low.

“Thirty-three years of flying and never seen that,” he said. “I mean I feel for the families and all that. Being a pilot helpless and knowing they were in a perilous situation — yeah, it was awful.”

Investigators uncovered the cockpit voice recorder, which was sent to Washington, D.C., to be analyzed. The voice recorder captures audio between the pilot and the co-pilot.

Snell said NTSB should release the audio from the cockpit recording, because that may be the only way to know what really happened before the plane crashed. A NTSB spokesman said the audio is confidential.

The aircraft is about 2 years old and has undergone at least two annual inspections. NTSB will be analyzing maintenance records for the plane, the spokesman said.

The communication between air traffic control and the pilot appeared to be normal at take-off. The preliminary investigation also showed the landing gear was down at the time of the crash.

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National Transportation Safety Board and FBI investigators on Monday inspect an airport hangar in Addison, the day after a twin-engine plane crashed into the building, killing all 10 people on board. Shaban Athuman AP

The victims

John Paul II High School in Plano told the families of students on Monday that students Alice and Dylan Maritato were killed in the crash, along with their mother and stepfather, Ornella Ellard and Brian Ellard. Alice attended the high school and Dylan was a middle school student at All Saints Catholic School.

Brian Ellard owned an art gallery in Dallas and co-owned Mille Lire, an upscale Italian restaurant, with his brother-in-law, Giuliano Matarese. Ornella Ellard was an interior designer.

Steve Thelen, 58, and his wife, Gina, also died in the crash, according to JLL real estate in Dallas, where Thelen was the managing director.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident that took place yesterday,” the company said in a statement. “Our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies go out to Steve and Gina’s family and friends during this difficult time. Steve was a valued friend and colleague to all of us, personally and professionally. They will both be deeply missed.”

According to a feature in BisNow, Thelen was known for bringing Pizza Hut to Plano in 1995.

Mary Titus and her husband, John, also were among the victims, according to the Tennis Competitors of Dallas, the Star-Telegram’s media partner WFAA-TV reported.

Mary Titus served as the mixed league director for Tennis Competitors of Dallas, according to an email sent to the TCD community.

“We are shattered by this loss as I know many of you who knew the involved families are as well,” the email said. “Mary was a true champion for the Mixed League and she loved working with all of you. I cannot tell you how proud I am of all that she has done for TCD and how greatly she will be missed.”

Mathew Palmer, 27, was also listed as one of the people killed in the crash in a press release from the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday. Palmer, who lived in Fort Worth, was issued a pilot’s license in 2008, according to FAA records, but details about his involvement in Sunday’s flight haven’t been released.

According to his wife’s Facebook, the two just celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary. Palmer’s Facebook says he is a ranch and arena hand at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

Fort Worth Stock Show spokesman Matt Brockman said Palmer was a seasonal employee.

“He was a great young man and had a bright future ahead of him,” Brockman said. “We mourn his loss. It’s tragic. We’re going to miss him.”

Two of the victims were crew members, according to the NTSB.

The medical examiner’s press release also confirmed Brian Ellard, 52; Alice Maritato, 15; Dylan Maritato, 13; and Stephen Lee Thelen were among the victims.

The other victims will be named by the medical examiner when positive identification is made and the next of kin is notified.

NTSB officials said they would not be releasing the identities of the people killed in the crash and that will be left up to local authorities.

Who owned the plane

Jennifer Rodi, the NTSB’s lead investigator on the accident, told the Associated Press the plane had previously been owned by a private charter company in Chicago.

Todd DeSimone, the general manager of Chicago-based jet charter company Planemasters, said Monday that he sold the plane to a company based in Addison called EE Operations. No one has responded to a message the AP left at a phone number associated with EE Operations. The company’s agent in Delaware, where EE Operations is registered, said it would forward a request for comment.

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said Monday that the twin-engine plane’s tail number, N511EF, was registered in April. The FAA registry confirmed that the plane was registered to EE Operations.

The National Transportation Safety Board asked that anyone who witness the crash or has video of it to email them at witness@ntsb.gov.

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