MONROE (WWJ/AP) – Federal investigators said the landing gear wasn’t lowered on a single-engine plane that crashed last month into Munson Park, near Monroe Custer Airport, killing three people.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also notes that the plane’s flaps were in the retracted position when the crash took place on March 29. The report did not offer an explanation.

Rick Howell was flying to nearby Custer Airport from a business meeting in Pennsylvania when his plane crashed just north of the Ohio state line.

The auto parts business owner and two of his employees at Toledo-based Conforming Matrix Corp., Nathan Brahier of Fremont and Jeremy Tate of Oregon, OH, died in the crash. They had taken off from an airport in Bedford County, PA, earlier in the day.

Witnesses said the plane was flying erratically before it went down in the park and burst into flames. Other witnesses said there was nothing that indicated the plane was having mechanical trouble.

Mitchell Gallo, air safety investigator with the NTSB, said Howell did make radio contact at Custer Airport for someone to reach him, but they were not able to do so. The pilot made no mention of any mechanical trouble, according to Gallo.

A final report is expected from the NTSB later this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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