(WASHINGTON) — A small plane that crashed in Alaska last month struck a bald eagle before bursting into flames, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Cessna 172 was conducting aerial surveying just west of the Birchwood Airport on the morning of April 20 when the plane went down into an area of dense woods, killing all four on board, according to a preliminary report published by the NTSB.
The pilot of the aircraft was a former NTSB investigator, according to the agency’s lead investigator on the crash, Shaun Williams.
“Remains of a bald eagle was found on the tail of the aircraft,” Williams told ABC News. “Remains were sent to the Feather Identification Lab at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.”
He said at this point they don’t know if the bird entered the cabin of the aircraft.
Williams said there have been other accidents caused by bald eagle strikes, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this would be the first fatal crash of its kind.
Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control data shows the plane making several sharp turns in the area of the airport before the data indicated its last altitude at just under 1,000 feet.
“We’re still going back and try to review past flights to see how this flight path compared to previous flights,” Williams told ABC News.
Investigators from the NTSB and FAA on scene later that morning discovered a fuselage mostly incinerated by a post-crash fire.
Williams said the investigation is still in its infancy.
A probable cause of the crash has not yet been determined.
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