Pilots killed in plane crash near Marlin identified; cause remains a ‘mystery’
MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) - The people killed when a small aircraft crashed near the Marlin Airport in Falls County on Tuesday were identified as Thomas Sands Jr., 55, of Sugar Land, Texas, and Cinnamon Franklin, 27, of Greenwood, Indiana, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The occupants of the Cessna plane were pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities do not yet know who was operating the plane since both Sands and Franklin were pilots and the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
“Right now, it is a mystery. We have a lot of information we still have to look at,” said David Bowling, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The federal agency’s investigators spent Wednesday in Marlin investigating the wreckage and plan to have it transported to a warehouse in Dallas where they can continue their examination.
Falls County Sheriff Joe Lopez said the crash was reported at about 12:45 p.m. on April 5 near the airport located off McClanahan Road (FM 147) and CR 134.
The plane was reportedly heading to the airport in Waco from Houston and the NTSB has learned the pilots were planning to stop at the Marlin Airport before arriving in Waco.
“From my understanding, (the people killed in the crash) are experienced pilots so I don’t know if it was mechanical (failure) or maybe something else,” Sheriff Lopez said, “Our heart goes out to the people involved. Like the old saying, you never know when the good Lord is going to call.”
The NTSB said Sands and Franklin were in the middle of a pipeline patrol flight, which means they were surveying a pipeline from the air. Experts said those flights involve a lot of maneuvering and flying close to the ground.
The plane did not erupt in flames after it crashed and the NTSB said that will help in the investigation, which will examine three factors: the state of machinery, the environment and the pilots.
Investigators are examining the engine, the plane’s controls and its fuel. So far, they have uncovered no evidence of anything malfunctioning. “Both wing tanks have adequate fuel in there,” said Bowling, “We aren’t finding anything yet that may have contributed to the accident.”
Investigators also plan to speak with pilots who landed at the Marlin Airport earlier on Tuesday to learn more about weather conditions. The weather in Marlin was hot, but not windy at the time of the plane crash.
The final piece of the puzzle will be to investigate the pilots. “We are going to look into the experience and background of the crew,” Bowling said.
Autopsies and toxicology reports have been ordered but those results could take months.
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