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Duette airplane crash remains under investigation; ID of two victims pending

Saturday afternoon’s crash in Duette of a Hawker Beachcraft BE-60 that killed the pilot and a passenger and sparked a brush fire was so devastating that positive identification of the deceased is going to take time, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Sunday.

“The plane was basically destroyed on impact,” Dave Bristow said Sunday night of the crash in northeastern Manatee County, near State Road 37, just north of State Road 62. “Conditions of the bodies now plays into this. We have to make sure before we release identification.”

No ID was expected Sunday night, Bristow added.

Bristow said one victim has been tentatively identified after a call from a family member who said a missing relative could have been on the twin-engine airplane’s fatal flight, but that’s not a positive identification, Bristow said.

“They suggested they may also know the second victim,” Bristow said. “But we have to go through the process of positive identification.”

People can be identified through dental records, and Bristow did not discount that as a possibility if needed in this case.

“Teeth could be used if that is what we have to do,” Bristow said. “We don’t know right now. We’ll just have to see how this goes.”

Another factor that makes identification a challenge in this crash, which occurred about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a wooded area, is that no flight plan had been filed for the flight, Bristow said.

The crash sparked a 30-acre brush fire that temporarily shut down S.R. 37 and made investigation of the crash more difficult, according to a Bay News 9 report.

The fire was completely out by Sunday morning and no homes were damaged, Bay News 9 reported.

“While (the brush fire) significantly impairs our ability to getting a complete understanding of the pre-accident condition of the airplane, there’s still a significant amount of evidence to work with,” Brian Rayner, the National Transportation Safety Board Senior Air Safety Investigator, told Bay News 9 at the crash site Sunday.

The flight took off from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport at about 1 p.m., according to a MCSO report.

The plane is registered out of California, said MCSO spokesman Randy Warren.

According to Bay News 9, two people riding their motorcycles said they witnessed the crash.

“I looked up and I saw a plane coming down,” Don Williams told Bay News 9. “A white private plane. It took a slow roll, went straight on down into the field. We all got off of our motorcycles, ran in to the area where the plane was.”

Witness Paul Ballard told Bay News 9: “It wasn’t just out of power. Something fatally happened to that plane because it was just spiraling pretty much straight down. At first I thought, the guy was doing some sort of stunt or something and at some point he realized, he can’t, it’s over.”

Bay News 9 reported that preliminary information shows the plane may have been doing maneuvers in the air.

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond

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