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Hopkinsville Plane Crash May Have Been Caused by Bad Weather

A couple from Bettendorf, Iowa was killed in a May 12, 2017 plane crash in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The married couple was on their way to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, when the plane went down. They were the only two people on board during the small plane crash. First responders on the scene discovered widespread debris and witnesses said it seemed clear that no one on board could have lived through the accident.

The Hopkinsville plane crash will be extensively investigated before a cause is identified.

Couple Was On Their Way to Alabama When Hopkinsville Plane Crash Occurred 

Sixty-nine-year-old Dominic Giammetta and his wife, Dr. Dianne Giammetta, were flying to Alabama in a Beechcraft Bonanza BE36 registered to Cremair LLC with Dominic piloting the aircraft. Though the Beechcraft Bonanza BE36 seats up to six people, the Giammettas were the only ones on the plane.

The Giammetta's flight departed from Davenport Municipal Airport at 9:42 a.m. on the morning of Friday, May 12. Upon departure Dominic made contact with air traffic control (ATC) for visual flight rules. It wasn't until 11:41 a.m. that Dominic established contact with ATC again, this time with Fort Campbell Approach. The Beechcraft Bonanza BE36 was traveling southwest of Madisonville, Kentucky at that point, and Dominic got an altimeter setting from ATC and then alerted the controller that he would be descending.

NTSB Has Released Preliminary Information on Crash

Though a full report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will likely take a year or more to be released, the NTSB has released a preliminary report on the Hopkinsville plane crash. The report details the last four minutes of communication between Dominic Giammetta and ATC.

At around 11:45 a.m., while the plane was flying at 3,500 feet, the controller asked Dominic of his intention, and Dominic responded that he needed to descend to, "...see what we got." After the controller gave Dominic the ceiling at Outlaw Field Airport in Clarksville, Tennessee, Dominic said "alright we'll see if we can do that." Three minutes later, Dominic updated ATC, saying "yeah, uh, I am looking at my, uh, weather here, if I don't land here, uh, it looks like I will be clear here in just a little bit, is that correct?"

In answer, the controller gave the wind, visibility and ceiling conditions at Muscle Shoals airport and the ceiling at an airport in nearby Nashville, Tennessee. He also told Dominic "...it's much clearer down south." Dominic told the controller he was going to climb back to 3,500 feet and the controller inquired as to what heading would be appropriate for weather avoidance. Dominic responded that southeast would be best, and, in their last communication, the controller gave Dominic a radar vector to fly a heading of 150 degrees, which Dominic acknowledged.

After they communicated, but in the same minute, the controller saw via radar that the Beechcraft was "maneuvering erratically," and three minutes later radar contact was lost. The rest of the controller's attempts to contact Dominic went without reply.

Both NTSB and FAA to Investigate Plane Crash 

On Saturday, May 13, 2017, the NTSB arrived at the accident site to begin their investigation into the crash. Debris from the plane crash was spread over an area approximately 50 to 75 yards by 50 to 75 yards in a heavily wooded area behind a field.

Officials with the NTSB said they would spend between two and three days talking to witnesses and analyzing the wreckage at the Hopkinsville plane crash site, in efforts to find the cause of the accident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also investigating the incident.

According to Randy Graham, the emergency management director for Christian County, which encompasses Hopkinsville, the NTSB and FAA completed most of their on-site investigation on May 13, 2017.

"They finished up their documentation and retrieval of the plane Saturday," Graham said. The NTSB works with a company that will retrieve the Beechcraft and its parts and take them to Springfield, Tennessee. "They will make sure they have all the parts and go through the debris," Graham added.

The Giammettas' remains were removed from the site the same day and sent to be autopsied in Louisville, Kentucky.

Recording Indicates Bad Weather at Time of Crash 

Following the crash, a recording from the Fort Campbell ATC was released, giving a possible clue to the cause of the accident.

"We lost contact with him," the recording begins. "He was flying in bad weather conditions and we're concerned that maybe he went down...we didn't get any indication from the pilot that he was going down, but he dropped off our radar."

A witness who called 911 reported seeing a plane diving out of the sky followed by the sound of a thud in the distance.

Vince Dixon was one of the people who reported the crash and was the first to locate the site, which he found after seeing a broken tree limb.

"The fuselage and so forth may have been in one piece but there was debris everywhere. It was unsurvivable, I would say." Dixon said.

On the day of the Hopkinsville plane, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin took to Twitter to acknowledge the incident. In the statement, Bevin asked Kentuckians to pray for the families and friends of those affected.

In 2015, Kentucky made headlines after a small plane crash left a seven-year-old girl as the sole survivor.

Couple Were Popular Doctor and Businessman in Iowa 

The Giammettas were well loved in their hometown of Bettendorf. Dominic was known throughout the community as "Don" and had a reputation as a good businessman, owning Fred's Towing in Davenport, a business he took over from his father.

"The best way to describe Don is that he was a guy that loved life and everything it had to offer," Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane said of his friend. "He really enjoyed flying and going on different adventures, just like he was doing today; going to different places and going on trips."

Dr. Dianne Giammetta was an obstetrician and gynecologist at UnityPoint Trinity, and cared deeply for her patients.

"Dr. Giammetta's dedication to her patients and their exceptional care improved the health of women and families throughout the greater Quad-Cities community," Rick Seidler, the president and CEO of UnityPoint Health said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Giammetta family during this difficult time."

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