Investigators dig for answers after Columbus plane crash

Officials: Mechanical failure possible

COLUMBUS, Ind. - Authorities continued their investigation on Friday to find answers after a plane crashed into a Columbus home Thursday morning.

Investigators appeared to be looking into mechanical failure as the cause of the wreck which left pilot Gerald Clayton and his passenger Dennis King with severe burns.

Officials said they spoke to several witnesses who told them that they heard a strange noise right before the crash, which could indicate trouble with the plane before the crash.

Neighborhood residents were sure about one thing, both men were lucky to escape the crash alive. 

IMAGES: Columbus plane crash

A day after the plane hit the home and burst into flames, one of the few things working inside was the smoke detector, which continued to shriek its warning to the resident who was no longer there.

The woman who lives directly behind the crash site said she saw a man climbing out of the plane on fire. And she wet down a towel which another man placed on the victim. Another neighbor described the horrific scene.

"And he was on the ground. He was in flames. And he didn't have a shirt on. I didn't know whether it had burned off of him. But his pants and shorts was on fire. And I said, 'Oh, Good Lord.' I said, 'Roll in the grass! Roll in the grass!' And he was trying to put himself out. And I said, 'Roll in the grass real quick. I'm gonna get some help,'" said neighbor Marion Clavin.

Federal investigators said it will likely be some time before they reach a definitive conclusion on what caused the crash. Several residents reported hearing suspicious noises indicating some type of mechanical failure right before the plane hit.

"The sound of this engine was real loud. A whirring sound. Just a real high pitch, like it was running out of time. Running too fast for the speed of the plane," said neighbor Don Andrews.

Investigators have combed through the house, where pieces of the plane were still embedded, and rubble still sits among otherwise untouched furniture.

"The federal authorities along with CPD detectives were here last night sifting through the crash site. And at this point, they're trying to gather up any type of evidence that can help them determine why the plane went down," said Lt. Matthew Myers with the Columbus Police Department.

Federal investigators were anxious to speak to Clayton and King who were still recovering in the burn unit at Wishard Memorial Hospital.

Clayton was listed in serious condition and King was in fair condition.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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