Thunderstorm contributed to deadly plane crash in Kentucky, federal report says

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An intense and rapidly-approaching thunderstorm contributed to a fatal plane crash in Harrison County earlier this month, investigators say.

The Federal Aviation Administration previously confirmed that on Aug. 3, a single-engine Piper J3C-65 Cub crashed at the Cynthiana-Harrison County Airport, killing a female passenger and seriously injuring the male pilot.

According to an Aviation Accident Preliminary Report released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane departed the airport that day around 5 p.m. for a “brief personal flight.”

Roughly 10 minutes into flight, witnesses reported seeing an “’intense’” thunderstorm approaching from the north, according to the preliminary report. The storm contained a “’wall cloud,’” heavy rain, and a rapid increase in wind speed. The temperature dropped 15 degrees within a matter of minutes, witnesses told the safety board.

Around that same time, an additional witness reported seeing the airplane doubling back toward the airport, flying in an “unusually low airport traffic pattern.”

The airplane approached the airport at a “low altitude,” over trees to the north, before turning left toward a runway, according to witnesses in the report. In making its sharp turn, the plane “suddenly descended in a left spin” before hitting the ground about 20 feet from the runway at 5:25 p.m.

“Almost immediately after impact, heavy rain and wind began at the airport,” the report said.