PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have released a preliminary report on the tragic Provo airplane crash that killed 62-year-old Nathan Ricks in early January.
The report provided witness testimonies that describe the moments leading to the crash as well as what investigators found when they arrived on the scene.
According to witnesses, the weather was beginning to worsen as light snowfall and a “misty rain” along with a light northerly breeze were starting at the time of the accident. A witness who fueled the plane said Ricks, who was piloting the aircraft, wanted to take off to beat the weather.
The fueler reported doing a “once over” on the plane while he was fueling and said he noticed unfrozen water droplets on the wings. After fueling, the fueler said they watched as the plane taxied onto the runway and begin to take off.
“The fueler stated that the airplane was starting its takeoff roll on runway 13, and appeared to ‘pull up steep,’ roll to the left, and the left wing impacted the ground,” the report said.
Other witnesses in the area said the airplane lifted about 20-30 feet above the ground and both wings “wobbled back and forth.” That’s when the plane reportedly banked right then a “hard left” as the left wing struck the ground.
Investigators said by the time they arrived about 23 hours after the crash, four to six inches of fresh snow had fallen, covering the crash site. Despite the snow, investigators were able to find a 90-foot scrape mark on the runway and “a swath of displaced snow and dirt” that extended from the left of the runway to a large impact crater.
“The crater contained portions of airframe debris and various airframe components,” investigators said in the report. “Wreckage debris extended from the crater about 597 feet to the fuselage. The wings were separated from the airframe and were located about 106 feet beyond the fuselage. Both engines were separated and located adjacent to the fuselage.”
Debris from the wreckage was recovered by investigators and taken to a secure location for further examination.
Nathan Ricks was killed in the crash. Three other passengers were aboard the plane at the time of the accident, including his wife, Joyce Ricks, as well as Dane Margetts of Holliday and Brent Beardall of Sammamish, Washington. Beardall was taken to a local hospital at the time of the accident with critical injuries. Joyce Ricks and Margetts reportedly suffered only minor injuries.