NTSB releases initial findings on fatal crash of jet headed to Outer Banks

The plane crashed into an industrial building in Farmington, Connecticut. [courtesy NBC Connecticut]

The National Transportation Safety Board says initial finds show the parking brake was likely still set when a charter jet flying to Dare County Regional Airport crashed in Connecticut in early September, killing four people on board and injuring four on the ground.

Two pilots and a married couple were in a Cessna Citation 560X business jet took off from Robertson Field Airport in Plainville, Connecticut, on September 2.

Witnesses said the plane immediately ran into trouble and hit the ground before skidding into the side of an industrial building in the town of Farmington.

William O’Leary, 55, of Bristol, Connecticut, and Mark Morrow, 57, of Danbury, were the pilots. The passengers were Courtney Haviland, 33, and William Shrauner, 31, a husband and wife from Boston, Massachusetts.

The couple both worked as doctors in Boston, Shrauner at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Haviland at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. They had a 1-year-old son and Haviland was pregnant with their second child.

One person on the ground suffered serious injuries, while three had minor injuries.

According to the NTSB report released this week, two witnesses observed the takeoff roll with one reporting the airplane was “going slower” than they had seen during previous takeoffs.

When the airplane was about two-thirds of the way down the runway, one witness noted a puff of blue colored smoke from the back side of the airplane.

The other witness stated that the nose landing gear was still on the ground as the airplane passed a taxiway intersection near the mid-point of the runway and he said to a friend with him that something was wrong.

A third witness, who was beyond the departure end of the runway, noted the airplane departed the runway in a level attitude. After clearing the runway, the airplane’s nose pitched up, but the airplane was not climbing.

The airplane then impacted a powerline pole, which caused a small explosion near the right engine followed by a shower of softball-size sparks.

After hitting the pole, the noise of the engine went from normal sounding to a much more grinding, metallic sound. The airplane then began to oscillate about its pitch and roll axis before the witness lost sight of it behind trees.

Investigators found extended tire marks on the runway, and that the parking brake was in the set position and a related valve was also in a position indicating that it was activated.

The report also noted flight data indicated the plane was at a lower speed at takeoff just before the crash than had been recorded during previous take offs.

A final report on the crash could take up to two years before it is completed and released.

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Sam Walker was news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.