CHARLESTON, W.Va. — National Transportation Safety Board investigators reported the April 11 plane crash in Kanawha County that killed an Ohio couple occurred after the pilot altered his flight path to avoid rain.
Lazarus Sommers, 50, and his wife Maryann Sommers, 56, of Millersburg, Ohio, were killed on impact when the Piper PA-32 crashed in a wooded area in the community of Riverside about a mile from U.S. Route 60.
Tuesday’s report showed the Sommers left Akron Fulton International Airport at 3:13 p.m. on that Friday headed toward Spartanburg, S.C.
About an hour later at 4:12 p.m., Lazarus Sommers asked air traffic control to allow him to make a 30-degree left turn to avoid a patch of rain. At 4:25 p.m. Sommers initiated a left turn to the north and began to descend. The report said air traffic control asked him what was happening and he said he was getting around more weather.
The report said Sommers then turned the plane right, made a 270-degree turn, and began tracking south, then southwest. The plane soon lost radio contact and radar contact. Kanawha County emergency dispatchers began receiving calls about the wreck at 4:53 p.m.
The NTSB talked to witnesses who said the sound of the engine was “loud” but fading in and out.
“They both stated that the airplane was in a nose-down, right bank attitude as it descended into trees. They subsequently heard the sound of impact, but did not see any smoke or fire in the vicinity of the crash site. The witnesses reported that the weather was overcast, and that about 10 minutes after the accident, it began raining,” the report said.
The crash site is right across the Kanawha River from the town of Pratt and some residents there first saw the wreckage and helped guide emergency crews to the scene. There were also several eyewitnesses in the Kelley’s Creek area near Cedar Grove.
The NTSB will release a full report in the coming months to come with a possible cause of the accident.