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Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Lack of fuel caused Rockford plane crash

By Shelley Grieshop

This single-engine Cessna crashed near Rockford about a year ago. The Federal Av. . .

A plane that left two men seriously injured was operating on less than a gallon of fuel when it crashed near Rockford in February 2006, according to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigator.
The crash along U.S. 33 narrowly missed an occupied home less than a mile from the northern Mercer County village. The pilot of the small Cessna, Joel Avore of Greenville, 36, and a passenger, James Canders, 33, of Wyoming, Mich., both spent several weeks in various hospitals in Michigan and Ohio recovering from their injuries.
Investigator Mitch Gallo of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said a final report on the crash is still pending and will give more details. He would not say whether instrument failure or other problems may have led the pilot to believe he had a sufficient amount of fuel to complete the trip.
No date was given for completion of the final report for public view.
Gallo said evidence from the crash indicated the plane had a fuel problem.
"Investigators recovered less than a gallon of fuel from the left fuel tank and none from the right," he said. "Neither of the tanks were damaged or leaking."
The brief preliminary report said the plane struck power lines, a tree and a mounded terrain during the forced landing but fails to explain what caused the pilot to attempt the landing. Avore and Canders refrained from commenting on the crash.
Visibility at the time of the accident was 10 miles with a southeasterly wind speed of about 13 mph, the National Weather Service lists.
The initial report from the NTSB concerning the flight pattern of the plane conflicted with information The Daily Standard obtained from Phillipsburg airport owner, Gene Miller, who said the men were en route to his airport when the plane crashed.
But on Friday, Gallo confirmed Miller's story as correct, adding the plane made a stop at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Mich., and was returning to the Phillipsburg airport when the crash occurred.
Investigators typically release preliminary findings followed by factual ones before a final report is complete, FAA officials said. A "probable cause" is listed on the finished report if one is determined.
The caseload of NTSB investigators is overwhelming at times, agency spokesman Keith Halloway explained for an earlier story. Most field offices have just five investigators who attempt to handle more than 100 accidents each year. Cases involving fatalities are given priority, he said.
The office handling aviation crashes in Auglaize and Mercer counties is in West Chicago and serves 10 other states neighboring Ohio.
Nationwide, the NTSB investigates about 2,000 aviation crashes each year, along with handling highway and railroad incidents, marine, pipeline and other types of transportation accidents, including those involving hazardous materials or recurring problems.
On the day of the Rockford crash, FAA officials investigated two unrelated fatal accidents in Forrest City, Ariz., and Mutata, in the Republic of Columbia.
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