THOMSON — Federal safety officials investigating Wednesday’s fatal McDuffie County jet crash said Friday that there were no distress calls between the pilot and air traffic controllers and that the flight appeared normal.
The small private jet carrying surgeon Steven Roth and members of his Vein Guys clinic staff aborted its landing at Thomson-McDuffie County Airport about 8 p.m., then hit a 60-foot-tall utility pole and crashed, killing Roth and four others.
The two pilots survived. Richard Trammell was upgraded to fair condition Friday at Georgia Regents Medical Center. The name and condition of the other pilot have not been released, but a friend who visited Trammell at the hospital Friday identified him as Jeremy Hayden.
“He’s talking, but still dazed,” Bob Fisher, a businessman and county councilman in Greenwood County, S.C., said about Trammell. “His speech is clear.”
Fisher said he has known Trammell for “20-plus” years and has been aloft with him many times.
“I’ve flown with him in that same plane,” he said.
He said he also has flown a few times with Hayden, whom he said was considered a competent pilot and was well-known at the Greenwood airport. Fisher said Hayden’s injuries were not as extensive as Trammell’s.
Fisher said Trammell is on a lot of pain medication but is clearly concerned about the crash and the families affected.
“He’s trying to get himself together,” he said. “He wasn’t just a pilot for those doctors; he
was a friend. He lost friends himself that day.”
Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Friday that the investigation hasn’t turned up anything unusual. He said the pilot was very familiar with the airport.
Airport security video shows the Hawker Beechcraft 390 approached the runway in a normal pattern, Sumwalt said. Darkness and the grainy quality of the video, however, made it difficult to determine whether the jet touched down on the runway before it aborted the landing. The video will be analyzed.
Sumwalt said investigators inspected the runway for debris or tire marks and found nothing unusual. All runway lights were functioning properly. Five witnesses have been interviewed, he said, and in coming days the NTSB hopes to talk to both survivors.
“Why some died and some lived in this crash is a complicated issue,” Sumwalt said. “We are looking at why it (the aircraft) came apart … where the fire started.”
Staff Writer Bianca Cain Johnson contributed to this article.