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Fatal plane crash in Las Vegas result of flap issue, report says

Updated June 11, 2021 - 5:36 pm

A fatal plane crash last month near Nellis Air Force Base was the result of a flap issue, according to a preliminary report released Friday.

At 2:17 p.m. on May 24, witnesses reported seeing a plane “falling out of the sky” and the pilot ejecting himself before the plane crashed, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane, a Dassault Aviation Mirage F-1 fighter jet, was flown by Nicholas Hunter Hamilton, 43, of Las Vegas, according to a statement from Nellis Air Force Base after the crash.

The plane crashed into a home at 2245 N. Christy Lane, near Judson Avenue, and left homeowner Jose Villanueva with nightmares of the crash, which he said sounded like a bomb going off in his backyard.

Investigators believe the plane was part of as two-plane formation finishing weapons school support flights.

Moments before the crash, Hamilton reported the plane had no problems.

“The pilot started the final turn and then reported that he had a flap issue and when asked if he was declaring an emergency, he responded ‘affirm’,” according to the report.

While on the final turn, investigators believe the pilot ejected and the jet crashed about a mile and a half from Nellis.

“The wreckage was consumed by a post-crash fire,” investigators said.

Hamilton, the only person on board his plane, died from blunt force injuries, according to the Clark County coroner’s office, and his death was ruled an accident.

Officials had previously said the jet and pilot were contracted by Draken US, a Florida-based military contractor that partnered with Nellis in 2015 to provide “adversary air support” for the U.S. Air Force.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people and families affected by this event,” Draken said in a statement the day of the crash. “We are doing everything in our power to assist them in this time of need, and we are working closely with federal, state and local authorities.”

In 2016, a Vietnam War-era attack jet operated by Draken crashed about a mile from Nellis Air Force Base. The pilot at the time ejected and survived with nonlife-threatening injuries.

The aircraft was a Douglas A-4K Skyhawk, returning along with another A-4 from a weapons school mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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