Wire theory in crash questioned

As investigators sort through the rubble in a field adjacent to Bundoran Farm off Plank Road in Albemarle County, questions remain about the cause of the plane crash that took the lives of two New England-based developers, now identified as Robert H. Baldwin and David I. Brown.

For instance, although a spokesperson with the FAA and the FAA website claimed yesterday that the six-passenger single-engine piston plane, a 1996 Beech BE36TC, seemed to have hit overhead wires before the crash, National Air Safety Transportation Board Senior Air Safety Investigator Paul Cox says today it's too soon to draw conclusions.

"Do you see any wires around?" asks Cox today, as he surveys the rolling fields that surround the yellow-taped-off crash scene. In fact, there are no overhead wires visible from the scene. Aside from scattered trees, the highest objects nearby are two dilapidated structures– a silo and a barn, both at least one hundred yards from the crash.

Cox (shown here in photo) also declines to speculate on the direction the plane was flying when it went down. However, he does mention the airstrip on Bundoran Farm, about a half-mile west of the crash site– a bright red/orange windsock marks a mowed grass runway.

Along with Cox and representatives from the FAA and from the plane's manufacturer, former Bundoran Farm owner Fred Scott also revisited the scene of the crash this morning and recalled the victims.

"They were stunningly impressive men of the highest character," said Scott of Baldwin, Qroe's founder and CEO, and 55-year-old Brown, Qroe's regional director. In January, the New Hampshire-based company purchased Scott's 2,300-acre Bundoran for $30.8 million after having announced last year that it plans to develop houses there in an ecofriendly way. On its eight or nine projects in New England, Qroe has typically protected 80 percent of the acreage and encourages on-site farming.

Qroe's local spokesperson, Susan Payne, says the company filed its preliminary site plan with the County planning department on Monday and that the men had hoped to meet with local officials this week.

"They came into a rural community," Scott says, "with plans that would have had the potential to massively change the way the community appeared." And yet, Scott says, they gained the trust of neighbors with their vision for preserving most of the land. Scott said he believes Qroe will press on with Baldwin's and Brown's vision.

That vision includes 88 homesites, varying in size from 6 acres to 100 acres, with about 90% of the property kept in conservation easements or as open space.

The NTSB's on-site investigation will end today, according to Cox, who, around noon today, was waiting for a recovery team to arrive and transport the plane's wreckage to a storage facility in Clayton, Delaware for further testing. The process, however, may be slow.

A preliminary report will be released on the NTSB website in the next several weeks, and then a factual report will come out in four to six months, Cox says. A final ruling on the cause of the crash may take up to a year.

Why so long?

"We want to do a good job," Cox explains, "and there are other accidents ahead of this one."


[Note: one of the victim's names was misstated when this post initially went online. It has been corrected here.–editor]