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Federal transportation investigators release preliminary report into Billings fatal air crash

Posted at 2:37 PM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 16:37:00-05

BILLINGS - The Cessna plane went down north of Billings in mid-January, killing all four aboard, was flying about 65 feet in the air when it struck a tower, according to a new preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report.

The report, released Monday, noted that the plane collided low down on the 185-foot tower Jan. 11 after leaving Billings, stopping in Hardin, then heading north toward Roundup.

The four killed were pilot David Healow, 69, Rusty Jungels, 36, Mikel Peterson, 35 and Raymond Rumbold, 32.

Several sections of the outboard left wing were located about 100 feett north of the tower, and two pieces showed marks consistent with impacting a wire, according to the report. The remaining section of left wing was found in the debris path about 350 feet from the main wreckage, according to federal investigators.

The plane was a Cessna TR182.

Robert Katz, a pilot with 40 years in the air who studies plane crashes, said he expects the full investigation to take more than a year.

"There is no intelligent reason why a pilot would take an airplane that low," he told Q2 Tuesday. "He can see what the terrain is like in front of him, so why is this plane flying so low? I don’t think weather was an issue. I think it was probably due to the fact that plane was 42 years old and maintenance could easily be neglected and or the pilot became incapacitated."