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Report on 2011 Taylorville plane crash nears completion

April 04, 2014 5:00 am  • 

TAYLORVILLE – A crash investigator says he's close to filing a detailed report outlining what happened two years ago when a plane carrying parachutists crashed in Taylorville, killing the pilot.

All 12 parachutists from the Mid-America Sport Parachute Club had saved themselves by jumping to safety from a height of 11,000 feet as the plane began to stall and enter a roll on the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2012.

Pilot Brandon Sparrow, 30, stayed at the controls of the twin-engined Beechcraft, which entered a steep dive and smashed into a tree in a rear garden just yards from an occupied home in the 800 block of West Rich Street.

Tom Latson is the investigator in charge for the National Transportation Safety Board and was on scene to pick through the wreckage. He has spent the past two years exploring every detail of the accident.

“My guess is it will now probably take more than a month before my report is finally finished and published,” said Latson, who is based in Houston.

“I just recently got the medical review, and I have completed all of the investigation on scene and the follow-up investigations.”

Latson's report will state the facts surrounding the crash, but it will be up to five presidentially appointed NTSB board members to analyze the information and reach a conclusion as to cause. Their findings, along with any future safety recommendations, will follow about a month after Latson's report is made public.

“I go on scene and collect the facts, I document all the facts serially and in great detail and that is the reason this all takes so long,” Latson said. “Painfully long, sometimes.”

One aid to his investigation in this case is that the parachutists were carrying helmet-mounted cameras recording the last moments inside the doomed aircraft. That footage has been analyzed and will be part of Latson's narrative; copies of the recordings will not be included online at the NTSB website, but a detailed description of what the cameras show will be made public.

“I was able to see the event from the perspective of the several different skydivers, and it told me quite a lot about it and that will be in my final report,” Latson said.

He said he had been contacted within the past week by members of the pilot's family and had spoken to them about his work so far. Latson said one thing that stood out in the Taylorville crash was the professional and sensitive handling of it by law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs and other first-responders.

“They all did their job very well,” he said. “I was on scene, and I can assure you the pilot's remains were treated with great respect.”