Cause of Alabama Plane Crash Still a Mystery - Montgomery Alabama news.

May 23, 11:59 p.m.

Cause of Alabama Plane Crash Still a Mystery

plane wreckage found near Mobile plane wreckage found near Mobile

More than a year and a half after investigating a mysterious plane crash in Alabama. The National Transportation Safety Board still doesn't have all the answers. The most perplexing question in this case: what exactly did the plane collide into?

An NTSB investigator concluded in an interim report that Tommy Preziose's plane "collided in flight with an unknown object." But what was it?

A Vietnam veteran and former New York City cop, Tommy Preziose loved to fly. The night of October 23rd, 2002, he was piloting a Cessna Caravan full of freight. Visibility was poor. Preziose was flying on instruments. But four minutes after takeoff from Mobile, he went down in Big Bateau Bay.

Preziose's last words to air traffic control were, "I needed to deviate. I needed to deviate."

The wreckage yielded two tantalizing clues. On some pieces, there were red streaks, perhaps transferred from something the Cessna hit. And embedded in one fragment, a small piece of anodized aluminum of unknown origin, but not from Preziose's plane.

But searches that night, and since, have not turned up any other aircraft or object. Speculation about what hit the Cessna has ranged from a terrorist missile to a drug smuggler's plane.

Some theorize a military target drone might have gone astray. But the Air Force says its drones couldn't have flown all the way to Mobile. Radar shows a Federal Express DC10 was in the air that night, but it does not appear to cross paths with Preziose's Cessna.

But right before his final transmission, Preziose tells the tower, "I got him above me right now." Preziose could have been disoriented, but a lawyer for Preziose's estate believes the two planes were closer than the radar indicates and postulates a whole new theory for the crash.

"We believe that the most likely cause of this tragedy of Tom's death was wake vosteses or wake turbulence," he said.

Wake turbulence, the tornado like wind that comes off a plane's wings, can cause aircraft behind to crash.

So what accounts for the red transfer marks? In an effort to determine if they came from a collision, or something else (like the crane that moved the debris), the NTSB is mapping the marks on a three dimensional drawing of the plane. The board has also retaken possession of the wreckage and will reexamine radar data.

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