The October 2013 plane crash that took the lives of a Murrieta-based traveling minister and his pilot, also a local resident, remains under investigation.
“Fatal accidents on average take about 12 months to complete so it will be some time before we get to the probable cause,” said Peter Knudson, spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is tasked with completing the investigation.
However, a preliminary accident report was released following the Oct. 18, 2013 tragedy in Derby, Kan. that killed 72-year-old Edward Dufresne of Ed Dufresne Ministries and World Harvest Church, along with 49-year-old pilot, Mitchell Morgan.
According to NTSB’s preliminary findings, a flight plan had been filed for the pair’s journey aboard the 1975 Cessna 500 Citation from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
The multi-engine turbofan airplane registered to Dufresne Ministries, Inc. in Murrieta departed at about 10:07 a.m. from the Wichita, Kan. airport en route to New Braunfels Regional Airport in New Braunfels, Texas.
Seven minutes later, at 10:14 a.m., the pilot radioed the Federal Aviation Administration’s Kansas City air traffic control center to report the plane had leveled at 15,000 feet. The plane was cleared to climb to 23,000 feet and proceed to Millsap, Texas.
But over the next minute, the aircraft made an abrupt right turn followed by an abrupt left turn, according to the preliminary NTSB report. Radar data showed the airplane descended to 14,600 feet before resuming climb and reaching 15,200 feet at 10:16:20.
“The aircraft then made an abrupt descending left turn and radar and radio contact was lost,” the report stated.
At 10:17 a.m., the plane was destroyed as it fell to the ground.
“Several witnesses reported seeing the airplane below the clouds in a nose down vertical dive,” the report continued. “One witness reported that after impact he saw a fireball about 500 feet high followed by a column of smoke.”
Evidence recovered from the accident scene near Derby told of a post-impact fire, with most of the wreckage located in or near a single impact crater, according to NTSB’s preliminary investigation. The outboard portion of the left wing and the left aileron were located about 3,000 feet west of the main wreckage, the report stated.
The preliminary report went on to state that weather-wise, there may have been “light to moderate icing above 6,000 feet,” according to statements gathered from pilots in the area at the time of the accident.
There was also a light rain, a northeast wind at 12 knots and abundant cloud cover, according to information obtained at 10:38 a.m. from the closest weather observation site at McConnell Air Force Base. Satellite imagery indicated a “broken ceiling at 17,000 feet above ground level...with the cloud cover top near 21,000 feet mean sea level.”
NTSB cautioned: “This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.”