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Allison Diaz, an air safety investigator with the National Safety Board, conducted a press conference for the I-93 fatal plane crash that happened on Thursday, at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

No word on cause of I-93 plane crash

MANCHESTER - The National Transportation Safety Board will focus on 'man, machine and environment' as it begins a lengthy investigation into the Thursday afternoon crash of a single-engine airplane on I-93 in Hooksett that killed a Rhode Island couple.

In a press conference Friday afternoon at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, Allison Diaz, an air safety investigator for the NTSB, said the investigation is 'in the very preliminary stages.' She declined to speculate on what caused the two-propeller airplane to smash into the busy highway at about 1 p.m., killing Herman Hassinger and his wife, Doris, both 83, of Block Island, R.I.

A review of air traffic control tapes did not reveal any distress call from the pilot, she said. 'He was in contact with air traffic control in routine communication,' she said, until controllers lost contact with the aircraft.

The aircraft took off from Block Island State Airport in Rhode Island earlier in the day, landed at Nashua Municipal Airport, and took off again for Laconia Municipal Airport, when it was lost to radio contact, Diaz said. The Hassingers were residents of Block Island and were on their way to New Hampton, northwest of Laconia on I-93.

'The investigation is an extensive process and it's just getting underway,' she said. The preliminary findings are due in about 10 days, with the full report expected to take nine months to a year. Once the full report is released, the NTSB will make a statement as to the probable cause of the crash within 60 days.

Investigators will review the medical history of the pilot, his hours of experience, the maintenance schedule for the aircraft, weather conditions at the time, and air traffic control communications. 'We will be documenting the position of flight controls and see what the instruments on the aircraft can tell us,' Diaz said.

She said the aircraft suffered significant impact damage, but did not catch on fire and was fairly intact. Several eye witnesses have been identified and contacted, but none have been interviewed as of Friday afternoon by the NTSB.

'I have not personally spoken with any eye witnesses yet,' said Diaz, the lead NTSB investigator in the crash. 'We have identified them and they have been contacted by state police.'

The investigative team will include representatives of the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration, state police and the manufacturer of the airplane, Beechcraft.

'We're in the preliminary phases of this investigation,' said Diaz. 'It's an extensive process, and just getting under way.'

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