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2 dead in plane crash near Janesville airport

The plane crashed in the Town of Rock.
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 9:58 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 4:15 PM CST
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TOWN OF ROCK, Wis. (WMTV) - Two people were killed in a Tuesday morning plane crash outside of Janesville.

According to the Rock Co. Sheriff’s Office, the aircraft was found upside down in a muddy, densely wooded area along the Rock River, between Happy Hollow Park and Blackhawk Technical college.

“There was a number of springs and there was a lot of water. It’s very low lying area, trees. With the snow being relatively deep, navigating all of that was difficult,” authorities said Tuesday in press conference.

The individuals’ bodies were discovered partially submerged in the water and mud when they were located. Their names have not been released at this time.

The Sheriff’s Office did not say what kind of plane it was. Initial reports indicated it was a small plane, while authorities called it unique or experimental.

In a news conference held just hours after the crash, the members of the Sheriff’s Office explained the aircraft departed from South Wisconsin Regional Airport around nine a.m., but soon reported an undisclosed problem that required them to turn around.

Air traffic control reported losing contact with the plane approximately a half-hour later.

The flight track log shows the plane took off from South Wisconsin regional airport at 10:12 EST. The aircraft climbed for about 1 minute reaching nearly 2,650 ft before descending and crashing shortly after.

According the Sheriff’s Office, the plane crashed south of Driftwood Drive and cut through several of the densely packed trees as it went down. Because of its location, rescue crews needed to use airboats to reach the plane.

When they got to the plane, rescuers found both individuals had already died, the Sheriff’s Office added.

FAA records show the plane was an experimental, amateur built plane.

“The reason it went into the experimental category because it’s not a typical type certificated or factory built aircraft,” Dick Knapinksi, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) spokesperson said.

He said the owner of the experimental aircraft builds at least half of it themselves, but the plane is thoroughly tested before taking off.

“Even before the aircraft is allowed to make any test flights, an FAA inspector has to come and not only take a look at the aircraft, but the builder’s log as to how the aircraft was built, how things were put together and so forth,” Knapinski said. “They are also subject to annual inspections.”

He said the type of aircraft and who it was built by is only one piece of the puzzle, but what happened in the air is most important.

“More than 75 to 80 percent of all aircraft accidents, whether it’s a factory built aircraft or an amateur built aircraft, actually comes down to pilot error,” he said.

The crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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