The cause of a plane crash that killed a James Island High School graduate and his flight instructor in Mount Pleasant Thursday could take a year to determine, a federal inspector said Friday.
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Matt Gaither, 20, of Johns Island and Graham Borland, 33, of North Charleston were killed when the Cessna 150M nosedived into the ground on takeoff about 11:15 a.m.
A preliminary report will be released within the next five to 10 days, but that won't include any speculation on what might have caused the crash, Stephen Stein, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a new conference Friday.
A report that includes a probable cause of the accident usually takes a year and sometimes longer, he said.
Inspectors with NTSB and the Federal Aviation Authority, as well as representatives of the plane and engine maker, inspected the crash site some 300 yards off the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport's runway Friday morning. Around 4 p.m, the plane was moved on a flat-bed trailer into a hangar for further study. The plane will be moved to Atlanta for more study in several days, Stein said.
Two people who witnessesed the crash are also being interviewed. Anybody else who heard or saw the crash is asked to call or email the NTSB.
The pilot's certification, training and log books will also be examined, as well as environmental factors, such as weather and visibility.
Gaither graduated from James Island Charter High School in 2012. He was a linebacker on the football team and also was on the wrestling team. He was taking flight lessons to improve his chances of getting into military special forces, according to his father, Cole Gaither, who is a partner in the company that owns the airplane.
The plane, with a tail number N66241, was registered to Hanger Aviation Inc. of Johns Island.
Clark Hanger, who is a partner of Cole Gaither's at the company, said the Cessna had been on loan for two weeks to Matt Gaither and Borland. Hanger said he did not know of their specific plans Thursday other than they were taking a training flight.
Hanger said the ordeal was "tragic" for him and his coworkers.
"The plane had no history of issues," Hanger said Wednesday. "It was licensed, and there was nothing out of the ordinary with the plane."
Joe Bustos, a pilot in Mount Pleasant, told the Moultrie News that he watched the airplane struggling to get into the air. It turned around to return to the airport, then nosedived into the ground.
Andrew Knapp contributed to this story. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.