Bloomberg News

Pilot in Crash That Killed Greenhill Bankers Reported Ice

December 28, 2011

(Updates with comments from investigators starting in fourth paragraph.)

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The pilot of a plane that crashed in New Jersey, killing five people including two Greenhill & Co. bankers, had reported that ice was forming.

“The pilot did confirm with air-traffic control that he was picking up some ice,” Ralph Hicks, a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said today at a media briefing. “He was in icing conditions. How much ice was on the plane we don’t know, and we may never know.”

Greenhill managing directors Jeffrey F. Buckalew and Rakesh Chawla, and Buckalew’s wife Corinne and their two children, died yesterday aboard the single-engine plane that crashed on Interstate 287 in Harding, New Jersey. The plane was owned by Buckalew, an experienced pilot, according to a statement from New York-based advisory firm Greenhill.

While the plane was equipped with a de-icing system, investigators don’t know if it was activated, Hicks said. Searchers are still collecting pieces of the plane today after retrieving about 40 percent of the wreckage yesterday, said Robert Gretz, an NTSB investigator.

“We’re in the early fact-finding phase,” Hicks said.

The Socata TBM 700 turboprop, which seated six people, took off from Teterboro, New Jersey, at 9:50 a.m. and crashed about 14 minutes later, Gretz said. It was en route to DeKalb- Peachtree Airport near Atlanta, according to flightaware.com.

‘Descending Spiral’

The plane reached 18,000 feet during the flight, Hicks said. He said that most witnesses described a “descending spiral” of the plane before it crashed.

Investigators will reconstruct the plane in Delaware, Hicks said. While the aircraft didn’t have a so-called black box with flight data, it is possible to retrieve some information from computer chips in on-board equipment, he said.

“It’s going to take us many months to go through all the data that we have,” he said. “The aircraft was very fragmented. We haven’t even verified that we have all of the plane.”

The plane’s records were held at a maintenance facility in Groton, Connecticut, and will be analyzed by the NTSB. The agency intends to publish a preliminary report in about a week, without specifying a cause of the crash, Hicks said.

--With assistance from Mary Jane Credeur, Laura Marcinek and James Langford in New York. Editors: Dan Reichl, Peter Eichenbaum.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in Newark at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net


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