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NTSB report details damage to plane that fell apart over Syosset

A preliminary report on the in-flight breakup of

A preliminary report on the in-flight breakup of a single-engine plane that killed three people on May 3, 2016 was released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday. Credit: Kevin Imm

Pieces of the tail used to control the plane that broke apart last week over Syosset were found at the beginning of the debris path that stretched across a residential area, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report issued Tuesday.

The report doesn’t specify a cause for the deadly May 3 accident that left the pilot and his two passengers dead, but it describes in detail the extensive midair damage done to the 43-year-old Beechcraft Bonanza.

The single-engine plane broke apart shortly after the pilot, David C. Berube, radioed for help at 3:30 p.m. Berube, 66, of Bristol, Connecticut, reported that he had lost some of the instruments needed to help him fly in the cloudy, wet weather, the report said.

At the time, the plane was flying at 7,000 feet, and Berube initially said he was operating under visual flight rules over the clouds and planned to continue to his destination of Plainville, Connecticut, the NTSB said.

“Subsequently, the airplane re-entered IMC [instrument meteorological conditions], and the pilot reported losing control of the airplane in addition to losing more instrument functionality,” the report states.

Radio and radar contact with the plane was lost at 3:42 p.m., according to the NTSB. Pieces of the plane rained down on houses, fields and woods, spread out across four-tenths of a mile, the report said.

The NTSB, which has ruled out an explosion, said the plane was torn apart piece by piece: Parts of the right ruddervator on the Beechcraft’s unique V-tail, used as both a rudder and elevator — and sections of the interior overhead panel were found at the beginning of the debris path.

The fuselage, outboard section of the left wing, left ruddervator and right wing were found further along, and the engine and instrument panel were found at the end of the debris path, with other pieces discovered in between.

Because of the plane’s separation and the fragmentation of its remains, the report said, flight-control continuity could not be determined, but all of the recovered flight-control cables — which connect to cockpit controls — showed signs of damage “consistent with overstress.”

If Berube lost use of his instruments, he might have become disoriented, resulting in a total loss of control that could have overstressed the plane, aviation experts said last week.

The vacuum pump that apparently failed, causing the instrument breakdown, stayed attached to the engine, the NTSB said. It was brought to the agency’s laboratory for examination.

A mounted GPS unit was removed from the instrument panel and will have its data examined, according to the report.

Berube, an experienced pilot, had more than 4,000 hours of flying under his belt at the time of the crash, the report said.

Killed in the crash were Berube; his longtime girlfriend, Dana E. Parenteau, 49, of Morgan, Vermont; and Berube’s employee, Benjamin Bridges, 32, of Bristol. They were headed back from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, after attending a wedding.

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