Amarillo TX May 2 2017 National Transportation Safety Board investigators are in Amarillo to determine the cause of Saturday’s Rico Air Ambulance crash that killed three just south of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. On Sunday they said they have preliminary evidence that the pilot was in contact with Air Traffic Control prior to the crash, and that certain avionic devices installed on the plane may contain critical information stored in memory that could help determine the cause.
The names of the victims were finally released Sunday evening by the Amarillo Police Department following some confusion over which agency would be responsible for the task.
Robin Shaw was the aircraft’s pilot, and he was accompanied on the fatal flight by air nurses Misty Nicholson and Scott Riola. The only age APD has is for Nicholson, who was 38, Sgt. Brent Barbee said. Barbee also confirmed that both flight nurses were Rico Air employees.
Aside from that, APD had no additional information about where the crew members lived. According to KCEN-TV in Temple, Texas, Riola was from nearby Cameron, a fact they reported after being contacted by Riola’s family members who live in Cameron.
Rico Aviation is a fixed-wing air ambulance company home-owned and operated in Amarillo. Aviation veteran Richard Coon is Rico’s president. The flight was on its way to Clovis, N.M., at the time of the crash, according to Federal Aviation Administration Mid-States Public Affairs Manager Lynn Lunsford.
Shortly after takeoff around 12:30 a.m. Saturday, the air ambulance crashed into a grassy field along railroad tracks near Pullman Road and Southeast Third Avenue, just south of the airport, according to officials.
NTSB investigator Lindberg held a media conference Sunday at the airport where he said that the single-engine Pilatus PC-12 did not have the same kind of commercial “black box” recording device installed like those required on commercial airliners.
However, he said, during their preliminary field investigation the NTSB determined that there were avionic devices installed in the Pilatus that have a certain amount of memory that can be downloaded, which may offer important clues.
The investigation is being led by the NTSB by Lindberg from its Dallas office with the support of the Federal Aviation Administration, Switzerland’s Pilatus Aircraft, the plane’s manufacturer, and Pratt & Whitney, the engine maker.
The Pilatus PC-12, with registration number N933DC, was being operated as an air ambulance by Rico Aviation at the time of the crash with one pilot and two flight nurses on board, Lindberg said. Investigators have so far worked the crash site to document aircraft parts, to examine the engine, and to meet with the operator, he said. After documenting all of the aircraft material at the site, Lindberg said the plane’s parts will be moved to a more secure location for an extensive examination.
Until that time the NTSB will offer no preliminary cause of the crash nor will they speculate, he said. Investigators plan to be on the scene of the crash for at least four more days, he said, and in about one week the agency may issue a preliminary report.
At the time of the crash, light rain was falling through a 23 mph wind — with gusts up to 31 mph — at 12:53 a.m. Saturday at the airport, with visibility at about 10 miles, according to National Weather Service Amarillo meteorologist Trent Hoffeditz.
Lindberg urged anyone who may have witnessed the crash to contact the NTSB by email at email@example.com or to call local law enforcement.