According to federal investigators, the pilot of a small airplane reported engine failure shortly before the crash that claimed his life on Sunday.
The fatal plane crash happened in a remote part of southwestern Rockingham County, and so far no witnesses have stepped forward. But a representative from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says he already has some clues about the aircraft and its pilot.
Investigators returned Monday to the crash site along Tilghman Road in the George Washington National Forest.
The only person on board the single-engine Beechcraft was its owner and pilot, 50-year-old Brian Forrest Hall of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He had taken off Sunday morning from North Carolina, but his plane went down shortly before it was cleared to land in Harrisonburg.
NTSB investigator Brian Rayner said, "Whether or not that was his intended destination... Or whether air traffic was attempting to vector him there after he declared an emergency... He said that he had, quote, lost his engine... That's something that we're going to have to determine."
The NTSB removed the engine from the aircraft for detailed inspection. Investigators reported finding at least some fuel in the tanks.
Very few of the trees around the wreckage were disturbed, showing that the plane struck the ground after a steep descent. The safety board typically reports initial findings about the crash with five business days.
Statement from the Virginia State Police
The Virginia State Police are investigating a fatal plane crash that occurred at approximately 11:30 am Sunday (August 26, 2012) in Rockingham County. The crash involved a 1975 single-engine, fixed-wing Beechcraft airplane that was occupied only by its owner and pilot, Brian Forrest Hall, 50, of Pittsburgh, Penn. The plane went down just inside the George Washington National Park off Tillman Road near the Rockingham County and Augusta County line.
Mr. Hall died upon impact. He was flying from Wilmington, N.C., to the Harrisonburg area when the crash occurred. The investigation by the Virginia State Police, FAA and NTSB is still ongoing.