Saturday, police released the names of the two people who lost their lives when their small plane collided with a medical helicopter Friday in Augusta County. What caused the two crafts to make contact is still unknown, however, as the investigation is still in the early stages.
State police say 19-year-old Jacob Houston Kiser of Grottoes, and 32-year-old Jason Allen Long of Edinburg died Friday when their single-engine Cessna collided in mid-air with a medical transport helicopter. The three occupants of the helicopter were not hurt.
The accident happened about a quarter mile away from the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. A team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be on the scene all weekend continuing their investigation.
"What we're doing here is gathering data; we're just throwing a big net and dragging up as much information as we possibly can," stated NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Brian Rayner.
That includes talking to any and all witnesses of the crash that took place at around 2:30 Friday afternoon. Investigators will have to rely heavily on statements from those witnesses and evidence from the wreckage because the airport does not have an air traffic control tower.
"The communication between aircraft is just that, it's communication between aircraft," explained Rayner.
The NTSB is in the process of moving the plane from the crash site and into a hanger at the Shenandoah airport. Then investigators will look into finding a cause and possibly even filing charges against those that survived the crash.
"You have to determine the cause of the collision before you can determine charges, and it is way to early to speculate on the cause of the collision or any charges," said First Sgt. Scott Van Lear of the Virginia State Police.
Investigators say it is unclear who was flying the plane, but that at least one of the men on board was a certified flight instructor. This weekend they will be examining witness statements, the wreckage, as well as the background of the men on board in hopes of finding any clues.
Two young men from Rockingham and Shenandoah counties lost their lives Friday (Dec. 31) when their airplane collided with a medevac helicopter near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, Va. The cause and circumstances of the crash remain under investigation by Trooper K. Hyden.
At 2:27 p.m. Friday, a 1967 single-engine Cessna 172H and a medical transport helicopter made contact in the air near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, Va. The plane suffered severe damage and crashed to the ground. The plane's two occupants, Jacob H. Kiser, 19, of Grottoes, Va., and Jason A. Long, 32, of Edinburg, Va., died at the scene. The plane is owned by Michael Price of Elkton, Va.
The helicopter's skid was damaged in the collision, but was still able to safely land at the airport. The helicopter, AirCare 5 Medevac, was a 2005 Eurocopter and owned by PHI Air Medical of Virginia. On board was pilot, Paul Weve; co-pilot and flight nurse, Joseph Root; and flight nurse, Carolyn Booke. The helicopter had transported a patient to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville and was returning to the airport at the time of the incident. No one on the helicopter was injured.
State police have notified the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The NTSB is on scene conducting its own investigation into the incident.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Augusta County Sheriff's Office and the airport's Department of Public Safety have also been assisting state police with securing the scene and investigating the incident.