Glare forced planes to change formation before fatal crash, report says

Drivers witness crash from I-95

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – A sun glare forced a change in formation moments before two planes collided in midair on April 1 in Edgewater, according to a the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB released a preliminary report on Tuesday detailing the crash that left Cessna pilot Gary Somerton, 57, and Grumman pilot Anne Edmonson, 66, dead.

Five pilots left Spruce Creek Airport in Daytona Beach at 8:39 a.m. to go to the Arthun Dunn Aiport in Titusville to attend a monthly breakfast event. They formed a V shape, but then the flight leader suggested a change in formation because of a glare.

"Due to the position of the sun, the flight leader decided to change to a left echelon formation where the airplanes would be arranged diagonally, to his left, with each airplane being stacked slightly low, behind, and to the left of the airplane ahead. This arrangement allowed the pilots to avoid the sun glare," the report read.

The collision happened as the planes were changing formation. The flight leader reported seeing a flash and another pilot saw vapor and parts flying in the air, officials said.

Witnesses on Interstate 95 told officials they saw a wing on one airplane detach, and then the plane rapidly fell toward the ground.

"They also saw the other airplane descend rapidly, almost straight down, until losing sight of it," the report read. "The witnesses also watched as parts from both airplanes descend to the ground with one piece landing in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes."

The planes landed about 220 feet apart, and debris from the crash was spread across a a 1/4-mile-long area.

The crash was reported at 8:42 a.m. 

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