Just under 24 hours after a single-engine plane crashed into a yard and then slammed into a house near downtown Victoria, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says portions of the aircraft's tail likely fell off just before the deadly crash.
The NTSB on Sunday confirmed that three people onboard the plane died in the crash, which happened at approximately 5:40 p.m. at a residence located at 7956 Rose Street in the west metro suburb.
The victims have been identified by the Star Tribune as:
- James Edney, of Omaha, Nebraska
- Jacob Mertes, 42, of Libby, Montana
- Sara Mertes, 37, of Libby, Montana
Edney was listed as a general surgeon at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. According to her Facebook page, Sara Mertes was a physician at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in Libby, while her husband Jacob worked for their county's health department, the Star Tribune reports.
Authorities have not yet confirmed the Star Tribune's report.
"The pilot contacted the control tower then made several heading changes and altitude deviations from a normal stable flight path. The last transmission was about 10 miles from the airport and radar contact was lost at about 5:40 p.m.," an NTSB spokesperson said during a Sunday news conference.
Debris from the tail of the plane – portions of the left elevator and portions of the left horizontal stabilizer – were found "about two blocks" from the crash site.
"That would definitely indicate that those fell off while in flight," the spokesperson said. "Without an elevator and a horizontal stabilizer the aircraft does not fly well."
The NTSB will file a preliminary report in about two weeks, before a full report is released sometime in the next 12-18 months.
"Our only purpose here is to try to prevent another tragedy," an NTSB spokesperson said during a Sunday news conference. "We try to fill in the blanks to assess anything that could help prevent another tragedy."
A family was inside the house when the plane crashed and burst into flames, but none of the residents were injured.
The aircraft that crashed was a single-engine Mooney M20 that seats up to four people. The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was flying from Alexandria Municipal Airport to Eden Prairie’s Flying Cloud Airport before 6 p.m. when it went down.