May 2—Local authorities have handed off the investigation into a fatal April 30 plane crash in the West Valley to the National Transportation Safety Board.
An investigator with the federal agency arrived on scene May 1, said Jennifer Gabris, NTSB spokesperson. A preliminary report on the crash is expected within the next two weeks, she said.
"NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation," Gabris wrote in an email.
Multiple area emergency response agencies converged on a property along Church Drive between Farm to Market Road and West Valley Drive on April 30 after a yellow aircraft fell from the sky. Local officials said the two people aboard the single engine aircraft, a man and a woman, died in the crash.
Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said Monday that he expected to release the identities of the individuals in the coming days. Authorities had a "general" identification of the pair, he said, but are awaiting DNA confirmation from the Montana State Crime Lab.
As for the NTSB investigation, Gabris said the agency's field personnel had begun documenting the scene and examining the aircraft. Investigators will examine radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, maintenance records and the pilot's medical records, she said.
According to FAA preliminary accident and incident data, the airplane was a deregistered Bearhawk and classified as an experimental aircraft. The registration, which expired in June 2021, listed Joe Daniel Angle of Kalispell as its owner.
Bearhawks are a line of homebuilt, fixed-wing aircraft with several variants designed for short takeoffs and landings. Enthusiasts can purchase the plans and start from scratch or build it from a kit. Virginia-based engineer Robert Barrows designed the aircraft in the 1990s.
News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.