Archive for Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Investigators examine Aaliyah’s plane

August 28, 2001

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— U.S. aviation officials searched for clues Monday in the plane crash that killed singer Aaliyah and eight others, saying they would investigate whether weight from production equipment may have hindered the takeoff.

Aaliyah, 22, and the others were in the Bahamas shooting a music video. Their twin-engine Cessna was bound for Opa-locka, Fla., when it went down Saturday in clear skies with little wind roughly 200 feet from the end of the runway at Marsh Harbour airport on Abaco Island, 100 miles north of Nassau.

"We're just in the beginning stages of the investigation," said Alan Yurman, from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

Yurman said the Federal Aviation Administration, the makers of the plane and local aviation officials were helping in the investigation, which will include examining how much weight the plane was carrying and how that could have affected takeoff.

"It is one of many possibilities that we're considering," said Bahamian aviation investigator Randy Butler.

John Frank, executive director of the Santa Maria, Calif.-based Cessna Pilots Association, said the Cessna 402B can safely carry about 2,300 pounds, which includes passengers, fuel and baggage. The passengers and fuel alone on the plane would have been at least 1,600 pounds.

"There's a very good possibility this aircraft was carrying a bigger load than it was certified to carry," he said.

On Monday, two local newspapers, The Tribune and The Freeport News, quoted a baggage handler they did not name as saying he had warned the pilot that the plane was too heavy for a safe takeoff.

Gloria Knoles, an office manager for Abaco Air, a local airline that flies in the Bahamas and Florida, said she saw a pickup truck on Saturday headed toward the plane with equipment and luggage that towered above the truck's sideboards.

Cameron Sands, a local who hauled much of the luggage after the crash, said the bags filled the bed of his truck, and one large suitcase seemed to weigh at least 150 pounds.

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