LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – National Transportation Safety Board investigators began researching a deadly plane crash at the Little Rock airport on Thursday.
A Beechcraft King Air 200 twin-turboprop aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday from the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. The crash claimed five lives, all employees of the science consulting firm CTEH based in North Little Rock.
NTSB investigator Alexander Lemisko said the investigation was still in its very early stage. He said he had a chance to review a low-resolution surveillance camera footage that showed the aircraft taking off followed by smoke rising from its impact site.
Shortly after the smoke began rising, Lemisko said the camera footage showed a storm front with high winds passing through the area. Winds were at 22 knots [25 mph] gusting to 40 knots [46 mph] as the front passed, he said.
The NTSB will be doing an in-depth study of the weather as part of its investigation, Lemisko said. He added that the NTSB would investigate if the airport had a wind shear warning system and if it was operating at the time of the crash.
The investigation will also be speaking with personnel in the airport’s control tower and reviewing the records of the pilots, as well as the maintenance records of the King Air, Lemisko said. Investigators will also be inspecting the aircraft itself.
Lemisko indicated that a review of the aircraft would be difficult due to the damage from its burning after its crash impact. He was unwilling to give a timeline for the investigation in this initial phase.
Lemisko said the NTSB had five investigators on site, two of whom were from a specialty branch to help the families affected by the accident navigate the process after a sudden loss. He thanked area first responders, including the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, Little Rock Police Department, Little Rock Fire Department and the local Federal Aviation Administration officials.
Pulaski County Sheriff Eric Higgins also thanked these groups and thanked the Arkansas State Police for its assistance. He said the sheriff’s office is providing security at the accident site during the investigation.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration reported that the flight was scheduled to head to John Glenn Columbus International Airport in Ohio.
Company officials with CTEH said the staffers were headed to aid in the response to an incident at the Schumann and Company Metals Plant in Bedford, Ohio.
Earlier in the day Thursday, CTEH released more information identifying the five passengers.