Patrol: Pilot caused air show crash

National Transportation Safety Board report on the crash could come soon.

Sgt. Jeff Kramer, the Highway Patrol’s lead investigator of the crash, stressed the state law enforcement agency’s investigation was limited to witness statements, video and measurements of the crash site, among other factors. It did not look at a potential mechanical cause, leaving that assessment to the National Transportation Safety Board, he said.

The NTSB will make the final determination on what caused the June 22 accident of a Stearman biplane that killed wing walker Jane Wicker, 44, and pilot Charlie Schwenker, 64, as they performed in front of thousands of spectators at the air show, the sergeant said.

“We’re a support role in the crash,” Kramer said. “Just from what we can determine, it is pilot error. Ours could be right, it could be wrong. That’s for them (the NTSB) to determine.”

Kramer said the cause of the accident appeared to be the biplane losing speed, causing the aircraft to stall because of a lack of lift over the wings.

While the plane was inverted, the wing that Wicker was sitting upright on suddenly tilted and struck the ground, video shows. The aircraft broke apart in flames when it crashed.

No spectators were injured.

The OSHP will provide data to the NTSB, he said. “We do it as we would any normal crash up to a certain point and they have the experience and knowledge to take it a couple of steps further in this case,” he said.

The NTSB has not yet released a preliminary report on the accident, which is expected in the coming days. A final report is not expected for six to 12 months.

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