Jan 28, 2013 4:04 PM by AP
MONROE, La. (AP) - A plane that crashed and killed four men last week dove almost straight into mud while making a second approach to Monroe Regional Airport, a federal investigator said Monday.
The impact created an 8-foot-crater and left debris spread over nearly an acre in Richwood, south of Monroe, National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Stuart Bothwell told a news conference in Monroe.
"This is one of the worst I've ever seen," he said of the impact and debris field, The News-Star reported.
NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss in Washington said Bothwell told him that the Beechcraft Bonanza A-36 burned in the crater after it crashed Thursday.
The pilot, flying by instruments, missed his first approach and was coming around for another attempt when it dropped off radar without any further air traffic communication or a distress call, Weiss said.
The airplane, owned by Central Flying Service, Inc. of Little Rock, Ark., was arriving at Monroe from Beaumont, Texas.
Bothwell said the plane was flying faster than 200 knots (about 230 mph) before radar contact was lost, compared to a normal approach speed of 120 knots (138 mph) for that model, the newspaper reported.
The crash killed all four people on board: pilot Mason Mauldin, a Little Rock musician; West Monroe businessman Dean Hart Sr., engineer Max Larche of Bastrop and auto parts executive Don Thompson of Monroe.
Weiss said NTSB investigators expect to remain in Monroe, where the wreckage was brought Sunday, for two more days. They'll file a preliminary report within 10 business days but it usually takes a year to 18 months to determine and report on what caused a crash, he said.