A team of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are looking into what led to a Piper PA31-T Cheyenne II turboprop twin to take off from Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT), enter into a steep decline, and crash into a U.S. Post Office parking lot on December 28, killing five of six aboard, including the daughter-in-law of the offensive coordinator of the Louisana State University (LSU) football team.
The 1980 model Cheyenne, N42CV, departed from Runway 22L from LFT at about 9:20 a.m. local time Saturday for what was to have been a flight to Atlanta-DeKalb Peachtree Airport (PDK) ahead of the LSU-Oklahoma University playoff game in Atlanta. NTSB vice chairman Bruce Landsberg briefed reporters yesterday that the aircraft reached an altitude of 900 feet and started a left descending turn. Air traffic control issued a low altitude alert warning as the aircraft passed through 700 feet before the aircraft crashed.
Two witnesses described the aircraft as being in a “steep left bank turn ….then rolling about wing’s level” just before striking power lines and trees by an apartment complex and coming to rest in the post office lot, according to the investigator in charge, Jennifer Rodi.
There was no distress call that NTSB was aware of, nor was there a flight data recorder. The wreckage debris field spanned about one-quarter mile, Landsberg said, “it’s a very sobering situation.” Avionics were “pretty badly damaged,” he said, adding the “wreckage is in pretty rough shape” between the impact damage and ensuing fire damage. But the NTSB does have two videos and airport radar is available.
Weather at the time was three-quarters-of-a-mile visibility, wind of five knots, and a cloud base at 200 feet.
Along with the five fatalities, the sixth person aboard was seriously injured. Further, three more on the ground were injured, including one seriously. Landsberg was joining a team of eight NTSB investigators on-site who were examining the wreckage, systems, weather, radar, and other aspects of the fatal crash.