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NTSB report: airplane apparently spun to ground just before deadly Forest County crash

Vilas County Sheriff's Office
Wreckage from the crash of a Rockwell International 690B in Forest County. All three occupants were killed.

An airplane that crashed in Forest County last week appears to have spun rapidly before hitting the ground, according to a report released Friday.

The crash killed all three people on board.

According to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), airplane broadcast a “mayday, mayday, mayday…we’re in a spin” transmission just before crashing.

Katie Thoresen/WXPR
Emergency responders gather at a trailhead in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest after the plane crash on Sep. 28.

A ground witness about a mile from the crash told the NTSB he heard a “loud, strange sounding airplane.” Looking to the sky, the witness saw the plane “nose down at high rate of speed spinning about its longitudinal axis at about 30 to 60 rpm.” The witness lost sight of the plane behind some trees and then heard an impact. NTSB information indicates the airplane’s groundspeed decreased from 209 knots to 93 knots in the two minutes before the crash.

The Rockwell International 690B airplane was conducting aerial imagery, the NTSB said. It was taking images of forest vegetation for the Wisconsin DNR.

The NTSB did not reveal a cause for the crash. NTSB investigations generally take months or years to reach conclusions. Federal officials have said names of the people killed in the crash would be released by local law enforcement, but the Forest County Sheriff’s Office has yet to release that information.

The plane departed the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport at 8:50 a.m. on Sep. 28. It crashed just after 9:00 a.m. about one mile west of Butternut Lake in the Town of Hiles in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. That’s about ten miles east of Eagle River. The wreckage was distributed in an area with a diameter of about 50 yards. Most of the wreckage was below the surface of water in local wetlands.

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