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A preliminary report about a plane crash that killed three Utah men three weeks ago near Paris said the aircraft appeared to have lost its rudder just before crashing into a pasture minutes after takeoff.
Passengers Michael Dale Bradley, 44, and Michael Endo, 51, both of Salt Lake City, died in the crash along with pilot Rob Thompson, 49, of Saratoga Springs, Uah.
All three worked for Utah-based Celtic Bank, which owned the Piper PA46 plane that crashed Jan. 12 about 10 miles south of Paris, near the Glory community.
The National Transportation Safety Board, whose offices are in Washington, D.C., issued a report 10 days later that cited two people who reported hearing the plane just before it crashed on a cold, foggy morning. A cause of the crash was not offered in the report.
According to the NTSB, the plane crashed at about 8:54 a.m., less than a minute after the pilot had contact with air traffic control operators in Fort Worth.
A farmer near the accident site said he heard the plane’s engine about 9 o’clock. He told investigators he could not see the plane because of the fog, but reported hearing the engine rev about three times, then silence.
About 15 minutes later, the farmer said he saw black smoke from the crash site about a half-mile northwest from his barn but didn’t hear the impact.
A second person, who was working at a natural gas plant near the crash site, said he heard the plane’s engine “back-firing” four or five times sometime between 8:30 and 9 a.m. that day.
The plane was relatively intact except that a rudder that served as a horizontal stabilizer was found about 30 feet from the crash site.
The NTSB’s report said the wreckage seemed to show that the plane was in a “flat, counter-clockwise rotating spin” before impact. A fire consumed most of the cockpit, right wing and fuselage after the crash.
The report said Thompson, the plane’s pilot, had logged more than 2,300 total flight hours, 118 of them on the type of plane that crashed. According to the flight plan that day, the men were headed to Austin.
The plane had landed at Cox Field Airport in Paris on Friday. Bradley and Endo reportedly were in Paris concerning a property that Celtic Bank was trying to sell. The plane left Cox Field again the next morning, but was in the air only minutes before the crash.
A final probable-cause report on the crash will be released once the investigation is finished, the NTSB said.