Kansas City, Mo. A single-engine plane carrying a Kansas family of six quickly lost altitude after it changed course to avoid bad weather before crashing into a swampy area in Florida, killing everyone aboard, according to a preliminary report issued Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report on the June 7 crash that killed Junction City businessman Ronald Bramlage, his wife, Becky, and their four children details accounts from three witnesses but does not discuss a cause for the crash. The final cause is not expected to be determined for several months.
The Bramlages' plane experienced an in-flight breakup before crashing about 50 miles southwest of Orlando, Fla., according to NTSB investigators.
According to air traffic control communications with Miami, Ronald Bramlage was trying to avoid a large area of precipitation northwest of Lakeland, Fla., just before the crash. Preliminary radar data showed the plane climbed to 25,100 feet and changed direction to the right before it descended to 10,700 feet in exactly one minute, The Kansas City Star reported.
The pilot of a nearby plane reported hearing a mayday call about one minute before hearing the plane's emergency locator signal.
A second witness, who was inside his home about 1.5 nautical miles from the crash site, said he heard "a whooshing high to low sound, followed by a sound he described as an energy release," the report said. "He was clear the sound he heard was not an explosion, but more like mechanical fracture of parts."
The witness ran outside and saw the plane flying below the clouds and noticed it was missing parts, although he did not see any parts come off the airplane. He videotaped the plane spinning directly into the ground.
A third witness, who was less than half a mile from the crash site, heard a boom that sounded like it came from a lawn mower and saw black smoke trailing from the spinning plane. The witness and his brother heard the crash and found the front of the plane on fire when they got to the site.
Investigators said sections of both wings, the horizontal stabilizer and elevator were separated from the fuselage.
Ronald Bramlage was the grandson of Fred Bramlage, the namesake of Kansas State University's basketball arena. His wife, Becky Bramlage, was the president of the Junction City school board. They were returning to Junction City with their four children — Brandon, 15; Boston, 13; Beau, 11; and Roxanne, 8, after a vacation in the Bahamas when the crash occurred.