KEENE, N.H. — Both occupants of the plane that went down in a fiery crash Friday night on Main Street were men who were pilot-rated, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Tim Monville, a senior air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters at the scene Sunday that one of the men had reported they were planning to remain in the traffic pattern around the airport after taking off.
Monville said there was no report of any problems before the crash.
“The audio I listened to, there was no communication from the aircraft about any problem,” Monville said. “But the first priority is to fly the airplane if there was a problem.”
The extensive fire that broke out when the plane came down nearly consumed the cabin, cockpit, and both wings, he said.
The men’s families were notified in person by Keene police Friday night, but officials have not publicly identified them.
The crash occurred shortly before 7 p.m. Friday after the single-engine Beech A24R aircraft took off northbound from Keene Dillant-Hopkins Airport. The plane came down about a half-mile from the airport.
A youth group meeting at Hope Chapel next door to the spot where the plane hit watched the conflagration erupt from the apartment building, youth pastor Nathaniel Stiles said on Saturday.
The children were terrified, he said, but Stiles offered thanks that no one on the ground was hurt.
“It’s a miracle and a pure act of God that no one within the church nor any of the residents of the apartment complex walked with any injuries,” Stiles said. “It is a miracle of God’s hands.”
Scott Gauthier, 44, who lived in the apartment building with his 66-year-old mother, was home at the time of the crash, he said Saturday.
The force of the impact knocked him from his seat, he said, and they fled the building.
“It felt like a bonfire,” Gauthier said.
Bryan Lodge, 35, of nearby Greenwood Avenue, said he was home with his 7-year-old son at the time of the crash. Just before it hit, he said he heard the sound of a plane traveling overhead, then two loud bangs.
Lodge looked out his home’s front windows, then heard the sound of another loud bang. He looked out his back window and saw flames rising from the crash site, he said. He ran to the scene to help, and felt the extreme heat from the fire.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Lodge said. " It is a very uneasy feeling seeing that and not being able to do anything to help.”
Officials have recovered the wreckage of the plane and will be reconstructing it at a nearby facility, he said. They will examine the engine and engine systems from the plane, he said, and review the plane’s maintenance records.
Security video that shows the final part of the flight and the crash will be examined, as well as videos that captured audio of the plane’s engines before the crash, he said.
Officials have been interviewing witnesses through the weekend and plan on talking to maintenance workers Monday, he said.
Authorities have said the plane was owned by Monadnock Aviation, which is based at the airport and offers charter flights, instruction, and aircraft rental.
In a statement Saturday, the city expressed “sympathy for the people who lost their lives in this tragic accident and for their families and loved ones.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.