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Maj. Ryan Scott David boards a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 Hercules. David, a navigator, was among four Airmen killed July 1 when a C-130 crashed while fighting a South Dakota wildfire.
Photo courtesy N.C. Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing

Originally published: 2012-11-15 11:51:44
Last modified: 2012-11-15 11:59:19

Causes of fatal C-130 crash found

The C-130 crash that killed Maj. Ryan David of Boone and three others in South Dakota in July was likely caused by an intense gust of wind that pushed the plane to the ground within seconds, investigators said Wednesday.

The Charlotte-based Air National Guard plane was involved in firefighting efforts in the Black Hills area when the crash occurred. Two other men were seriously injured but survived.

Accident investigators found that before the plane went down, it experienced turbulence from a thunderstorm about 10 miles to the west, The Charlotte Observer reported.

The plane experienced a drop in airspeed during its first pass over the fire with retardant, but the crew determined it could adjust to the conditions, the newspaper reported. On its second attempt about five minutes later, the plane encountered a severe gust of wind called a microburst that is common near thunderstorms.

At least two other factors also may have played a role in the accident, investigators determined.

A smaller plane guiding the C-130 first experienced a microburst that pushed it within 10 feet of the ground, and a second small plane also experienced turbulence, the newspaper reported.

The lead planes did not advise the C-130 to go around the storm, instead suggesting that the plane drop its load of fire retardant and try to climb higher.

The crew also received conflicting information about how far to stay from thunderstorms. One said to stay 25 nautical miles away; another only five miles, investigators found.

In addition to David, 35, the crash took the lives of Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville; Maj. Joseph McCormick, 36, of Belmont; and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon, 50, of Charlotte.

Chief Master Sgt. Andy Huneycutt and Sgt. Josh Marlowe of Boiling Springs were injured.