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NTSB report offers few new details in Labor Day plane crash

Little new information was released Friday in a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report on a fatal plane crash near Henderson Executive Airport on Labor Day.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, and NTSB investigator Joshua Cawthra declined to elaborate on the preliminary report. The board commonly takes six months to a year to investigate and determine a cause of a crash.

The pilot, 50-year-old Douglas Touchet, was killed. Passengers Randall and Tamika Savoy, as well as Touchet’s wife, Susan, were seriously injured. All three are believed to still be hospitalized in Las Vegas, though a University Memorial Center representative could not be reached for comment Friday. All of the people on the plane were from southwest Louisiana, and they were flying out after a vacation weekend in Las Vegas.

According to the one-page NTSB report, an air traffic controller saw Touchet’s seven-seat Piper Cherokee take off from the Henderson Executive Airport about 8:15 a.m. on Sept. 6. The airplane remained on the runway for about 4,000 feet before taking off and failed to gain altitude, according to the report.

The plane never exceeded more than 200 feet above ground level and Touchet radioed the controller that he was having trouble gaining altitude and “he had to come back to the airport,” the report stated. Touchet was unable to gain enough elevation to turn the plane, which crashed in a Silverado Ranch residential area northwest of the airport, at the intersection of Morning Mauve Avenue and Clover Field Court.

Witnesses told investigators the plane’s landing gear and flaps were retracted and the engine sounded like it was “straining to keep the airplane airborne,” the report said.

An official with the Clark County Department of Aviation said immediately after the crash that the plane did not follow the airport’s recommended flight patterns, which follow paths that avoid flying over residential areas. Deputy Director Rosemary Vassiliadis said she couldn’t speculate on why Touchet didn’t follow the recommended route.

In 2008 two planes in separate incidents crashed into homes near the North Las Vegas Airport. In all, four people died. Those crashes sparked outrage in the community and a slew of county aviation department safety recommendations.

The Henderson airport averages fewer than half the number of annual flights as the North Las Vegas Airport, and had been relatively trouble-free before the Labor Day crash. Vassiliadis said that between 2000 and 2009, the airport saw roughly 780,000 takeoffs and landings. Only four flights related to that airport involved fatalities since 1982, and none of those was related to conditions at the airport, she said.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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