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Charlotte Area News

Weather, Misjudgment Led To Crash In South Dakota

U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Daryl McKamey

The North Carolina Air National Guard released the results of an investigation into the July plane crash that killed four members of a Charlotte-based crew. They were fighting wildfires in South Dakota at the time of the accident.

The report from the Accident Investigation Board says the crew misjudged weather conditions and got caught in a violent burst of air that slammed their plane into the ground.

Brigadier General Randall Guthrie was the lead investigator into the crash. He says the airmen had just dropped their first batch of flame retardant and were ordered to pass over the fire a second time. But Guthrie says they shouldn’t have.

"If you add all of the pieces up, with all of the meteorological conditions," Guthrie says. "The operational conditions that were going on there, they should not have gone ahead with that second drop."

The report also blames miscommunication between multiple crews fighting the fire.

But Guthrie’s investigation also found the pilot of the crashed plane made a critical decision that saved two of his crew members.

"It's a testament to the aviation skills of the guys in the front and the way that they landed the airplane or crashed the airplane that made the difference whether or not the guys in the back survived," he says. 

Of the six people on the airplane, four died and two escaped with serious injuries. The four airmen are Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon, 50, of Charlotte, Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville, Major Joseph McCormick, 36, of Belmont and Major Ryan David, 35, of Boone. The names of the injured have not been officially released.