Investigators release preliminary report on plane crash that killed 2 near Khyv Peak
Nov 30, 2023, 1:10 PM
(National Transportation Safety Board)
PROVO — A plane that crashed earlier this month, killing both pilots, took off from the Spanish Fork Municipal Airport/Woodhouse Field and may have been trying to avoid Provo Municipal Airport airspace when it crashed near Khyv Peak, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
A passenger in the plane was seriously injured at the time of the crash, but spoke with NTSB investigators, telling them the small Cessna 172G was flying from Spanish Fork to the Driggs/Reed Memorial Airport in Driggs, Idaho, on the morning of Nov. 14.
Evan Backers, 26, of South Jordan, and Collin Niemela, 23, of Santaquin, were killed in the accident. The passenger was identified by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office as a 22-year-old man from Springville.
The passenger told investigators he “believed that the pilot’s intent was to maneuver” to stay out of airspace controlled by the Provo airport as well as Salt Lake City Class B airspace, according to the report.
After takeoff, the plane flew north and east of the Provo airport and “into Slate Canyon toward rising terrain,” the report states, though the passenger said he was “unable to discern any dialogue between the pilot and copilot regarding the rationale behind the pilot’s decision to fly eastward into the canyon.”
The man said conditions were windy in the canyon, and reported hearing the airplane’s stall warning horn. He said the plane was in a “nose-high attitude before it hit trees,” according to the report.
The Civil Air Patrol received an emergency locator broadcast from the plane at 11:17 a.m. on Nov. 14, and found the wreckage after a search and rescue mission. The plane was found about six miles northeast of the Spanish Fork Airport on a slope of Slate Canyon.
Investigators said the plane appears to have struck the branch of a 70-foot-tall aspen tree before coming to a stop about 170 feet away.
“All major airplane components necessary for flight were accounted for at the accident site,” the report says.
The plane and engine were taken to a secure location in Phoenix for further examination. The report is only preliminary, and the details are subject to change upon further investigation.