Updated: December 6, 2012 11:14PM
GREENSBURG (AP) — Foggy, misty conditions at a southeastern Indiana airport forced a pilot to land elsewhere shortly before a plane flown by a second pilot crashed near the airport, killing all four people aboard, federal investigators said Thursday.
The plane that crashed had enough fuel, appeared to be working properly and its landing gear was down when it crashed Sunday night, killing pilot Donald Horan and his wife and a second couple, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Stuart Bothwell said.
The four were returning from a Florida trip with six others who were traveling aboard a separate plane. The pilot of that plane tried to land 20 minutes before Horan but couldn’t find the runway, Bothwell said.
“The indication I got from the pilot who flew previously to the accident stated that he had no visibility. He never broke out of the clouds. (The pilot) never had any sight of the runway and did a missed approach,” Bothwell said.
After missing that landing attempt, the pilot of the other plane diverted to an airport in nearby Columbus. Although both aircraft had radios, there’s no indication that the first pilot tried to communicate with the second plane.
The pilot-activated runway lights were working, but investigators said they didn’t know if Horan tried to turn them on.
A joint funeral was scheduled Friday for Horan, 46, his wife, Barbara, 45, and their friends Stephen Butz, 45, and Denise Butz, 42, all of Greensburg.
WRTV-TV and The Indianapolis Star reported Horan had nearly 400 hours of flying experience, including 52 hours flying the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft that crashed. Horan had purchased the plane in October.
Dan Baker, the NTSB’s deputy regional director, said the plane’s wreckage will be moved to Washington, D.C., for additional investigation.
“What we’ve been able to do so far is go through the aircraft wreckage of the airplane. We’re still gathering information on the air traffic control and the weather,” Baker said.
Investigators also will interview witnesses, Baker said. They’ll need six to nine months to complete the investigation and prepare a factual report. Analysis of the factors surrounding the crash could take an additional one to three months.
Visitation for the four victims was scheduled for Thursday evening in the St. Mary’s Catholic School gymnasium in Greensburg. The funeral will be Friday morning in the Greensburg High School gym, with burial at St. Mary’s cemetery in Greensburg.