No distress call made prior to fatal Louisiana plane crash: NTSB

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana -- Badly damaged equipment on board, as well as a lack of a flight data recorder will make it more difficult to identify the cause of a small plane crash that killed five on Saturday, according to investigators.

The plane departed Lafayette Regional Airport and climbed to 900-feet before making a left turn, according to NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg. Air traffic control issued a low altitude alert warning as the aircraft reached 700 feet.

The low altitude alert was the last communication between air traffic controllers and the pilot, Landsberg said. Visibility was about three quarters of a mile at the time of the crash.

The aircraft crashed into the parking lot of a post office in Louisiana shortly after takeoff and fully engulfed a car on the ground in flames, authorities said.

The crash happened about a mile from the airport less than a minute after takeoff.

Witness statements made to the NTSB indicated the airplane was in a steep left-bank turn and then rolling about with wings level before the crash, according to KATC-TV.

Witnesses said the plane made contact with power lines and hit a parking lot outside a post office, blowing out the building's windows, before coming to rest in a field.

The plane was en route to a college football playoff game in Atlanta between Louisiana State University and Oklahoma, said Steven Ensminger Jr., who told The Associated Press that his wife, Carley McCord, was on board. Ensminger Jr. is the son of the offensive coordinator for the LSU football team. McCord was a sports reporter for WDSU-TV, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans.

The other passengers of the plane were:

Ian E. Biggs, age 51
Robert Vaughn Crisp II, age 59
Gretchen D. Vincent, age 51
Michael Walker Vincent, age 15

Stephen Wade Berzas, age 37, survived the crash and was being treated for severe burns at a Lafayette hospital. KATC-TV reported that a person on the ground was seriously injured when the aircraft struck her vehicle.

The victims of the Lafayette, Louisiana plane crash
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Video and photos showed a trail of scorched and burning grass around the crash site in the city of Lafayette. A blackened car sat in the post office parking lot, which was carpeted with scattered tree limbs.

Four people were brought to the hospital: one from the plane, one on the ground and two post office employees who were brought in for evaluation, said Lafayette Fire Department spokesman Alton Trahan.

The aircraft was an eight-passenger plane, Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit said.

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The plane went down in a part of the city with a scattering of banks, fast food chains and other businesses.

Marty Brady, 22, said the lights went out at his apartment a couple of hundred yards or so away from the crash site as he was preparing to make coffee.

He said he ran out and saw black smoke and flames from the post office parking lot and downed power lines.

"There were some people screaming and somebody yelled that it was a plane," he said.

Brady said a power line over the gate to his apartment complex was clipped by the plane.

"If it had been a little lower, it could have been a lot worse," he said.

Lafayette is the fourth-largest city in Louisiana with a population of about 130,000, according to the 2018 census. It is located about 135 miles west of New Orleans.
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