A Saturday investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board of the plane crash that killed Coliseum Health System Chief Executive Officer P. Allen Golson found the plane’s gear handle in the up, or retracted, position.
Pilots usually place the gear down for landing, according to Ralph Hicks, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, though he said investigators will need to have a closer look at the plane to make any determinations.
Golson, 55, died Friday after his Cessna 340 twin-engine plane crashed in a field about half a mile south of the Ocala International Airport in Florida and caught on fire at about 12:30 p.m. Golson was the pilot, and his wife, Carol, 52, was the only other passenger on the six-seat plane. The investigation also found that at the time of the crash Carol Golson was sitting in one of the plane’s aft cabin seats, and not in the cockpit with her husband.
The accident happened about an hour and 10 minutes after leaving Macon.
Earlier this month, Golson announced he would be stepping down from his Macon job after seven years to become CEO of Ocala Health System.
Carol Golson is in stable condition at the Ocala Regional Medical Center after sustaining minor injuries in the crash, according to Merita Burney, the Coliseum’s chief nursing officer. Carol was expected to be moved to another room Saturday afternoon after spending time in the intensive care unit for observation, Burney said.
The aircraft wreckage has been removed from the crash site, and Hicks expects investigators to be on the scene in Ocala until Monday or Tuesday. The entire investigation could take six to nine months, though. A preliminary report will also be released in a week, he said.
Investigators also discovered that only two of the aircraft’s six fuel tanks had fuel in them at the time of the incident. The other four tanks in the plane were ruptured in the post-crash fire, said Hicks. The NTSB is investigating the crash with the assistance of the Federal Aviation Administration.
“This is strictly a fact-finding phase,” Hicks said. “We’re documenting the facts right now.”
Golson was cleared for a visual approach by a flight tower in Ocala, but contact with Golson’s plane ended there. Golson did not make any emergency or distress calls before the crash, Hicks said.
According to paperwork filed with the FAA, Golson recorded over 1,000 hours of flight time over the summer.
Burney, who lives in the same River Forest subdivision as the Golsons in Monroe County, said neighbors have expressed “shock, disbelief and sadness.”
“It’s a great loss for all of us, the family at the Coliseum and the neighbors at River Forest,” Burney said Saturday. “He will be greatly missed.”
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.