Investigation continues in fatal plane crash

Pilot may have been trying to avoid mid-air collision, officials say

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Grief counselors will be at Melbourne International Airport Friday to help workers cope with the deadly plane crash that happened earlier this week.

The investigation continues in the small plane crash that killed three people. Investigators said on Friday that the pilot may have been trying to avoid a mid-air collision as he approached the runway.

Recordings released Thursday from the control tower at Melbourne International Airport indicate two planes were trying to land from opposite ends of the runway. The pilot of the small plane that crashed is believed to have taken a sharp turn to avoid the other plane, then crashing.

"I'm on a real short base for 9-Right to land now," the pilot said.
Sierra Romeo Tower "No. I need you to extend ... cut it in tight now, cut it in tight to 9-right."
30 seconds later, pilots say they just saw a plane crash.
Officials wouldn't comment on the recordings because of the investigation.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said in news conference on Thursday parts of the the single engine Cirrus SR22 were found in trees, and the plane itself was almost "unrecognizable."

NTSB officials said their agency would take over the crash investigation. They said the crash site was in bad shape and hard to decipher. The plane was actually dug into a crater, making it difficult to recover.

The NTSB said voice communication between the pilot and the control tower has been archived and is being investigated.

Earlier in the day, authorities released the victims names that were killed in a the crash.

VIDEO: Sky 6 above the crash

Airport officials said Robert W. Kurrus Jr., 44, of Satellite Beach; James Christopher Franklin, 24, of Palm Bay and Justin Lee Gaines, 25, of Palm Bay were on board the plane when it crashed.

Kurrus, the Oaks 10 cinema owner in Melbourne and a former technology guru and vice president forĀ  Regal Cinemas, was believed to have been the pilot. Gaines and Franklin worked at the movie theater with Kurrus.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane went down at about 5:15 p.m. near airport property in a wooded area while trying to land on runway 9R.

"It sounded like a tire exploding. That sound, that big pop, but really, really loud, and I thought it was right down from where I was working," said one witness.

Witnesses said they saw the plane nose-dive as it was trying to land at the airport. It's not clear if the plane had a problem landing or a mechanical problem.

Aviation experts said the plane type is one that typically new pilots own.

Local 6 news helicopter Sky 6 was on scene and saw the plane broken into pieces as investigators went through wreckage. It took investigators 45 minutes to find the crash site.

"The compactness of the crash site and the absence of smoke made the crash site difficult to access," said Lori Booker of Melbourne Airport.

Investigators said they can't put together the tail number to identify the plane.

READ: Statement on crash

SLIDESHOW: Plane found in woods

Records show there are 11 of the Cirrus SR22 planes registered in Brevard County and 260 in total in Florida.

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