NTSB investigators recover crashed jet's black box, prepare to remove fuselage

Life is gradually returning to normal in a South Bend neighborhood where a private jet crashed Sunday, killing two people on the plane.

Most of the 70 residents of the neighborhood are back in their homes Monday night, after the utilities were turned back on.

In the meantime, the investigation into the crash is moving full speed ahead.

NTSB investigators will be at the crash site for the next three or four days examining the area and the plane's wreckage.

A report from the Tulsa World newspaper says the pilot who died, Wes Caves, needed several attempts to land the plane two weeks ago on a flight from Memphis to Tulsa, similar to what happened in South Bend.
The report says the auto pilot function apparently failed on that March 5 flight.

According to the NTSB's investigator in charge of the South Bend crash investigation, the plane that crashed is a newer model Hawker Beechcraft 390. Todd Fox said he is not aware of any problems with this fleet, but the organization is still compiling reports.

Investigators have recovered the black box from the plane, which was in good condition. Fox said in a press conference Monday afternoon that it will take about nine to 12 months for investigators to analyze all the data.

The data is being sent back to the NTSB as experts on the plane itself join investigators trying to piece together what happened.

NTSB investigators say the Hawker Beechcraft 390 made two approaches on March 17, followed by an aborted landing attempt, before crashing into three homes on Iowa Street.

Four people were aboard the plane when it came down--two pilots and two passengers. The two pilots, Steven Davis--a former University of Oklahoma quarterback and Wesley Caves, who owned the aircraft, were killed in the crash.

The two passengers on board sustained non life-threatening injuries and are being treated for their injuries, along with a woman who was in the house directly to the north of where the plane came to rest.

Initally, leaking jet fuel was a concern for fire and police. But South Bend Water Works employees were able to remove fuel that had leaked into the basement of one of the homes.

"The jet fuel that was in the basement was taken care of. Some of it did go in the [sewer] system. That was handled appropriately by the South Bend Water Works," said Assistant Chief John Corthier, of the South Bend Fire Department. "With the amount of jet fuel that was removed, they were able to handle that without affecting any of the residents of the city of South Bend."

The NTSB has called in experts on the plane's airframe and engine to join them as they continue their investigation.

"We'll be focusing our time on the machine, which is the aircraft, but another important part of the investigative process is also to look at the man as well as the environment in which the aircraft was being operated," said Fox. "Our mission is not simply to understand or identify a probable cause, but to identify any safety issues that could be related to the accident."

Once the fuselage is removed Fox said investigators will have a better chance to examine the area.

All but eight homeowners are back in their houses Monday night.

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