BELLEFONTE — The cause behind Saturday’s fatal plane crash remained
elusive Sunday, as a federal investigator said that he was ruling out no
possibilities and that the investigation could last a year.
“We have nothing to lead us definitively in any direction at this
point,” said Paul Cox, a senior air safety investigator for the National
Transportation Safety Board.
At a somber news conference in the Willowbank Building on Sunday
afternoon, Cox said a preliminary report about the crash and its cause
should be available next month. It will be posted online at www.ntsb.gov.
But a more thorough report, including an examination of weather
conditions, the plane’s maintenance records and the pilot’s history,
will not be complete for another four to six months, Cox said. Pilatus
Aircraft Ltd., which manufactured the plane, and Pratt & Whitney, which
built its engine,
a captain on the Penn State lacrosse team, looks over the wreckage
Sunday of the plane crash that killed his parents and younger brother.
are joining federal authorities in the probe.
Six Rhode Island residents died just before 2 p.m. Saturday when the
small propeller plane crashed within yards of the new Centre County
Correctional Facility along the Benner Pike. The deceased are Jeffrey,
Karen and Eric Jacober and Gregg, Dawn and Leland Weingeroff, Coroner
Scott A. Sayers confirmed Sunday.
The families, who were prominent in business and philanthropy in
Providence, were flying north from Florida. They had planned to stop at
University Park Airport to see a Penn State lacrosse game.
Michael Jacober, 21, a son of Jeffrey and Karen Jacober, is a captain of
the lacrosse team. Sayers said Sunday that the families died of
blunt-force trauma caused by the impact of the plane. He ruled the
deaths accidental. Jeffrey Jacober, 51, the plane’s pilot, did not
appear to have suffered a heart attack or any other crippling malady,
Coroner Scott Sayers, left, and Federal Aviation Administration investigator
Bob Drake look over the wreckage Sunday.
It wasn’t clear whether the pilot or the passengers had been wearing
seat belts, Sayers said, because their bodies were found strewn through
the cabin amid displaced luggage. The Associated Press quoted a Federal
Aviation Administration spokesman as saying the pilot was attempting an
instrument landing ap proach.
But the FAA has no record of any distress call made from the aircraft to
University Park Airport, Cox said. He said Jeffrey Jacober did speak to
a flight center in New York as he made his approach to the airport but
did not mention any trouble on the plane.
The plane, a 1999 Pilatus PC-12/45, did not contain a cockpit voice data
recorder or a flight data recorder, Cox said.
Speculation suggested that icing may have been a contributing factor in
the crash, a Penn State spokesman said Saturday. And a county
administrator said the FAA also indicated, very shortly after the wreck,
that icing or an uneven distribution of weight may have been involved.
Autopsies were expected to be complete late Sunday, and the bodies were
to be sent back to Rhode Island, Sayers said.
Meanwhile, dozens of Pennsylvania volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol
maintained a secure perimeter around the crash site, where debris was
scattered across 50 square yards. Motorists on the Benner Pike
occasionally lingered on the side of the road to gawk at the wreckage,
said Lt. Erin Long, a member of the CAP’s Penn State squadron.
“Every now and then, if one person stops along the road, other people
will stop,” she said. CAP members tried to keep the passers-by moving to
prevent accidents, Long said.
Cox, the NTSB investigator, said he hopes the wreckage will be removed
today. The company that insured the plane will determine where it will
be taken, he said.
Tim Knisely, chief of the Bellefonte Fire Department, said firefighters
were surprised to find no flames when the plane crashed. He said more
than 60 local emergency responders, including paramedics, rushed to the
For them, the county is offering stress and grief counseling.
James Cox, a 13-year-old visiting from Lancaster, said he was walking
with his family in a nearby field when he saw the plane plunge.
“I threw a tennis ball in the air, looked to the right, and I saw this
huge plane come down out of the air,” said James Cox, who is not related
to the NTSB investigator. “It went straight to the ground” and made “a
The teenager, who dialed 911 on his cell phone, said the pilot “was just
revving it and revving it and revving it.” The plane’s engine was still
running, and its propeller was spinning when it crashed, he said.
“I said a small prayer to myself as I saw it twirl towards the ground,”
James Cox wrote in an earlier e-mail. “That was all I could think of for
those poor people stranded in the plane.”
airport official says the pilots declared
emergencies both before and after the crash that
killed six people from Providence.
01:00 AM EST on
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Icing conditions were so severe Saturday over
University Park Airport in central Pennsylvania
that three small planes declared emergencies on
approach, the airport's director says,
scrambling rescue crews into action.
Firefighters watched as all three planes
landed safely. But about eight minutes after the
first emergency call, Jeffrey Jacober's plane
crashed two miles from the airport, killing him,
his wife, a son, and three members of the
Weingeroff family, all of Providence.
"It is a very unusual circumstance to have
that many aircraft in that period of time have
that sort of problem," airport director Bryan
Rodgers said yesterday.
Rodgers said Saturday's icing conditions were
the worst he'd seen since becoming director in
And his predecessor, Robert Dannaker, who
held the post for 16 years, said he could not
recall a single day with so many ice-related
The first emergency declaration came at 1:32
p.m., Rodgers said, from a small twin-engine
plane on approach.
The airport sits in a rural setting in Benner
Township, five miles from Penn State University,
where the Jacobers and Weingeroffs were heading,
after a week in Florida visiting relatives, to
watch the Jacobers' son, Michael, play in a
Gray skies and mist hung over the airport,
said Rodgers, with the air temperature at ground
level slightly above freezing.
The pilot of the twin-engine plane reported
ice on his aircraft to a Federal Aviation
Administration flight center in Jamaica, N.Y.,
on Long Island. In turn, the flight center
notified the airport that an incoming aircraft
had declared an emergency and to clear a path
for a quick landing.
Accumulating ice can affect a plane in two
ways, Dannaker said.
It adds weight and disturbs the air flow over
the wings, altering the plane's aerodynamics. It
can also raise the speed threshold for when a
plane's engine stalls. For instance, if the
stall speed of a plane is normally 80 mph,
accumulating ice can make the plane stall at 85
or 90 mph, Dannaker said.
The twin-engine plane landed safely while
Jeffrey Jacober was still working the controls
of his Pilatus PC-12/45, a high-end, single-prop
plane that friends said he had purchased in
From his pilot seat, Jacober counted as his
passengers his wife, Karen, their 15-year-old
son, Eric, his friend and business partner Gregg
Weingeroff, his wife, Dawn, and their son,
The Pilatus aircraft is FAA-certified to fly
into "known icy conditions" and is equipped with
deicing technology that can either break off or
melt ice from its wings, prop and windshield.
Jacober, 51, was an experienced pilot,
friends have said, who had flown for years for
both business and pleasure.
As Jacober approached University Park
Airport, he received clearance to land from the
same Long Island flight center that minutes
earlier had received an emergency declaration
from the twin-engine aircraft.
"There was no indication from the aircraft of
any problem," FAA eastern region spokesman Jim
Peters said Saturday after Jacober's plane
Because the crash is under investigation, FAA
cannot say whether an air controller briefed
Jacober on the weather when he called to receive
clearance, or whether the FAA issued an ice
advisory to pilots in the area, spokeswoman
Arlene Murray said yesterday.
Jacober's plane crashed about 1:40 p.m.,
according to a Pennsylvania State Police
About 40 minutes later, at 2:21 p.m., a
second plane on approach to University Park
Airport declared an emergency because of ice
build-up, Rodgers said. A third plane issued the
same declaration at about 6:45 p.m.
Both those cases involved single-engine
Funerals for Jeffrey, Karen and Eric Jacober
were scheduled for this morning in Temple
Beth-El, in Providence. Funerals for Gregg and
Dawn Weingeroff and their son Leland were
scheduled for tomorrow at Temple Beth-El.