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FAYETTEVILLE -- A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says a plane piloted by a Texas teenager dropped off radar screens before crashing nose down into trees south of Prairie Grove last month, killing the pilot.

Gabriel Hatton, 17, of McKinney, Texas, was the only person on board, according to the Washington County sheriff's office.

The single-engine Cessna 150G crashed in the Cove Creek area just before 9 p.m. Sept. 23, according to the report. The cause of the crash wasn't known.

The plane crashed in woods near 21000 Pierson Road. The Cessna took off from Drake Field en route to an airfield in McKinney. The aircraft was registered to Wingnut Enterprises of Allen, Texas, and operated by Tango Thirty One Aero Club.

"Dark night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated without a flight plan," according to the report. "Shortly after departure, the airplane descended from radar coverage."

A nearby landowner reported hearing a low flying airplane followed by the sound of an impact. The landowner smelled fuel but could not find the wreckage in the dark and notified emergency services, according to the report.

"The airplane impacted a lightly wooded, hilly area," according to the report. "Initial impact signatures were consistent with the airplane colliding with trees and impacting terrain in a nose low attitude."

The report notes weather conditions were clear and calm with visibility of 10 miles at the time of the crash.

The Washington County sheriff's office received numerous calls about the crash, the first of which came in shortly before 8:45 p.m. A deputy found the plane at 11:13 p.m.

Kelly Cantrell, public information officer for the sheriff's office, said Hatton's father said his son made the flight a few times before. She said Hatton had taken a friend to Fayetteville and was returning to Texas.

Washington County officials said information from the Air Force helped in finding the plane.

John Luther, Washington County's director of emergency management, said the Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., used radar to give searchers an approximate latitude and longitude for the Cessna. Emergency personnel used those coordinates to narrow their search, Luther said.

Metro on 10/10/2019

Print Headline: Radar lost plane before crash, report says

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