Authorities Probe Montana Plane Crash

Investigators are gathering evidence in Butte, Mont., to find out why a single-engine plane crashed short of the airport Sunday. All 14 people were killed on board the plane that was headed to Bozeman, Mont., from California, but changed course.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. More details are emerging about the weekend plane crash in Montana that claimed 14 lives. As NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, we know more about who was on board but less about what exactly went wrong.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: It was supposed to be a trip that united several family members for a few days skiing on the Montana slopes, but many of the skiers never made it.

Sunday afternoon, a single-engine turbo prop on its way to Bozeman, Montana, made a detour to Butte, 85 miles away. 500 feet short of Butte's Bert Mooney Airport, the plane crashed nose first into a cemetery. All 14 people aboard perished, seven were children.

According to National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chair Mark Rosenker, the pilot was family, too.

There's continued speculation about why the plane went down. The NTSB's Rosenker says flight control records indicate the pilot asked one thing, twice, toward the end of the flight.

Mr. MARK ROSENKER (Acting Chair, National Transportation Safety Board): The pilot requested to change his destination to Butte and gave no reason for this diversion.

BATES: Then, around 2:30 mountain time, witnesses on the ground saw the plane's troubled approach. Butte resident Harley Howard(ph) described what he saw.

Mr. HARLEY HOWARD (Butte, Montana): The airplane tail lifted up. And as it lifted up, it spun around, and it just looked like somebody had grabbed a hold of the plane, and it just drove right into the ground, and there was a ball of fire.

BATES: The Napa Valley Register reported St. Helena physician Erin Jacobson, wife, Ava(ph), and their three preschoolers, Taylor, Ava, and Jude, were among the dead.

The NTSB's Rosenker says records indicate things were normal at 2:27, when air control asked the pilot if he had the airport in sight.

Mr. ROSENKER: The pilot indicated he had one more cloud to maneuver around.

BATES: Six minutes later, reports of the crash were called in. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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