The cause of Monday's deadly small plane crash in a Massachusetts cemetery remains unknown, but federal transportation safety investigators said Tuesday that they'll be spending two days on the ground looking into it.
The pilot and sole occupant of the Cessna 150 was killed in the crash at New Bedford's Rural Cemetery. The plane nosedived, according to cellphone videos captured by eyewitnesses, and the force of the impact left only a mangled wreck on the ground.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigators trying to determine the cause of the crash confirmed at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that they are examining those videos.
"We look at the man, machine and the environment," said Lynn Spencer, an NTSB air safety investigator, "so we are going to look at the pilot, his health, his fitness for flight, any medications. We will do a full assessment of that, as we will the aircraft, the weather, interactions with air traffic control."
One video shows thick, white, smoky entrails coming from the plane that witnesses said circled before crashing. But NTSB investigators cautioned that, when something goes wrong in an aircraft, those maneuvers may not be intentional.
Paul Vidal of Westport was flying the plane when it crashed around 3:30 p.m. Monday, killing him. No one else was hurt.
About 40 minutes earlier, Vidal had taken off from New Bedford Regional Airport, which is about five miles north of the crash.
It appears Vidal struck a tree before crashing into the ground, near several gravestones and very close to a few homes on the edge of the cemetery, investigators said. There is no black box in this type of plane to assist the NTSB with its investigation.
The NTSB's preliminary report should be out in about 10 days, with the final report expected to be issued in about 18-24 months.
FAA records show that Vidal was in good health and had a private pilot license since Feb. 2010. The only medical information listed shows he wore contact lenses.
"He was in good health," his wife, Carol Vidal, said Monday. "We ran a 5K yesterday, both of us. We were the oldest ones in the race, so, he was in good health."
People who live in the densely populated neighborhood in New Bedford's south end said the plane was being maneuvered as if it was in an air show.
"I look up and I see the plane it's circling and there's a lot of smoke," one witness reported.
Carol Vidal said something must have gone wrong because her husband, a longtime pilot, was always cautious in the air.
"He was a good pilot," she said. "I don't know what happened."