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NTSB releases initial report on plane crash that killed Case Western wrestlers

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary report Friday on the Monday night plane crash that killed four Case Western Reserve University students, including three wrestlers.

The three Spartan wrestlers were identified as 20-year-old Lucas Marcelli of Massillon, Ohio, 18-year-old Abraham Pishevar of Rockville, Md., and 18-year-old John Hill of St. Simons, Ga. The 19-year-old pilot, William Felten of Saginaw, Mich. also was killed. The four had rented the Cessna 172R for a nighttime sightseeing trip over Cleveland after their first day of classes at Case Western, but the plane crashed not long after takeoff, about 50 yards from the Cuyahoga County Airport, a general aviation facility catering to private aircraft east of the city, not to be confused with Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the commercial field located southwest of Cleveland.

The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration investigates all plane crashes in the United States. The preliminary report released Friday on Monday’s crash basically recounts known facts about the crash, based on eyewitness accounts, conversation between the pilot and airport controllers, and initial analysis of the crash site and the damaged plane. The preliminary report has a disclaimer that the information is subject to change, and may contain errors which will be corrected when the final report has been completed. It does not draw any conclusions as to a cause, nor does it assign blame. After additional investigation, the NTSB will issue a final report in the coming months.

Felten the pilot reserved the Cessna 172R from T&G Flight Club where he was a member at 8:22 p.m. Eastern time Monday evening for four hours of use, beginning at 8:30, using an online reservation service. No one from the flight club was at the airport when the students arrived.

According to eyewitness accounts, the four CWRU students were seen at the airport at 9 p.m. walking towards the plane. “One of the witnesses stated the airplane stayed on the ramp for about 30 minutes with the engine running. They did not see the airplane after this time,” according to the NTSB preliminary report.

At 10:46 p.m., the pilot called ground control for a takeoff taxi clearance. The controller then issued taxi instructions back to the approach end of runway 6. Exactly ten minutes later, the pilot radioed that he was ready to takeoff on runway 6. When asked by the controller for direction of the flight, the pilot responded that they were going to fly east to sightsee and that they return “in a little while.” The controller issued the takeoff clearance with a right turn after takeoff. At 10:58 p.m., the pilot radioed that they were not climbing fast and they wanted to immediately make a left turn to turn around. The controller approved the left turn. The controller stated it appeared the airplane began a left turn when it crashed into the ground and burst into flames, just north of the intersection of Bishop Road and Curtiss Wright Parkway.

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