WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The bodies of four people who died when a small plane crashed into a flight training facility at a Kansas airport remained at the site Friday as authorities assessed what needed to be done to make the building safe to enter.
Police on Friday confirmed the identity of the pilot as Mark Goldstein, but are not yet releasing the identities of the three other people whose bodies were found inside a flight simulator in the training facility at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. While the bodies were found Thursday, they have not yet been removed. Three of the victims were from the Wichita area and one was from another country.
Heavy equipment is expected to be brought in later Friday to begin demolishing portions of the building so firefighters can safely recover the remains of the victims.
“We don’t want to get anybody else hurt,” Wichita Fire Marshal Brad Crisp said. “We risk a lot to save a lot, but we risk little to save little — and at this point in time it is more important to do this safely.”
Five people who were inside building were also injured during the crash, and one remained hospitalized Friday in serious condition.
Via Christi Hospital St. Francis released a statement from the mother of 39-year-old Scott Mans thanking people for their concern and the care her son was receiving at the hospital. Barbara Lanning said her son is expected to make “a full recovery over time.”
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are at the scene to determine the cause of the accident.
NTSB investigator Leah Yeager said the pilot reported a problem with the left engine of the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air soon after taking off from the airport.
According to witness reports, the plane was “flying low and slow before it entered a left turn,” Yeager said.
“It continued to turn left and then impacted the building,” she said.
The plane, which was manufactured in 2000, struck the top of the building and the jet fuel ignited an intense fire. The aircraft remains in pieces, with parts scattered on the roof and on the ground of the training facility.
Goldstein, 53, was an experienced pilot who worked as an air traffic controller for 24 years at the Wichita control tower before retiring earlier this year. His friends say he loved to fly and retired from his controller’s job so he could spend more time flying. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association recognized him in 2004 and 2005 with awards for his exceptional performance that helped prevent accidents.
“Whether it was air traffic or being a pilot, Mark was just always known for being very fastidious,” Pat Pelkowski, the union representative for NATCA in Wichita, said Friday. “I mean, whatever he did, he did 100 percent. So he knew everything about the plane he was going to fly, he knew everything about his air traffic control job and how to do it very specifically. If you needed an answer Mark was the guy you went to.”
Goldstein started his career as an air traffic controller in the U.S. Navy in 1981. After serving five years, he was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration and went to work in Salina, Kansas. He transferred to the Wichita tower in 1989, according to the NATCA. He had a degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and was rated as an instrument, commercial and multi-engine pilot.
“Mark was more than a mentor to a lot of us. He took a lot of us underneath his belt, taught us a lot,” Pelkowski said. “He had a very abrupt style about him, but that only goes to show what controllers and pilots have to be like in order to do their job well and Mark did. Everybody looked up to him. Nobody thought there was a better controller out there than Mark.”
NATCA is bringing in counselors to help grieving colleagues at the Wichita control tower.
One of his close friends, Ron Ryan, said Goldstein was working as a contract pilot and was taking the aircraft to Mena, Arkansas, for painting and interior refurbishing work.
“He is well respected in the pilot community,” Ryan said.
NTSB investigators at the scene will try to determine what caused the engine failure. Peter Knudson, an NTSB spokesman, told The Associated Press early Friday that there are procedures for pilots to land with an engine out but that he had no information on why those procedures were not applied.
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