INDIANAPOLIS (WBAY) - The pilot of a twin turboprop Cessna reported his plane was "out of control" shortly after taking off from an airport on the outskirts of Indianapolis, minutes before the crash that killed local farmer and businessman John Pagel, his son-in-law Steve Witcpalek, and the pilot, Nathan Saari.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report, the plane departed from Eagle Creek Airpark at 7:39 p.m. on February 22, bound for Green Bay Austin Straubel Airport. An Indianapolis controller asked Saari why he deviated from his assigned heading and altitude.
"The pilot reported that the airplane was out of control. The pilot... explained to the controller that he had a trim problem and difficulty controlling the airplane, but that he had the airplane back to straight and level."
He was given a new heading and clearance to climb to 13,000 feet, then turned over to a Chicago air traffic control center, which told him to climb to 20,000 then 23,000 feet and change his frequency.
"The pilot then transmitted that he needed a minute to get control of the airplane and that he was having difficulty with the trim. Communication and radar contract was then lost."
The NTSB report says the plane crashed into a plowed field. Wreckage was spread over a quarter mile, through the upper farm field, down a slope covered with brush and trees, and into a lower field.
The weather was overcast with 10 miles visibility, dictating the use of night instruments for flying.
The preliminary report details the events leading up to a crash and immediate findings but does not go into the investigation of the underlying cause. That report can take months to a year to complete.