Arts & Life
5:22 am
Thu August 15, 2013

UPS cargo jet crash--the investigation begins...

26 members of the National Transportation Safety Board, and an FBI evidence recovery team, will fan out today at the site of Wednesday’s crash of a United Parcel Service Airbus A300 aircraft. Both pilots were killed in the accident, which knocked local residents out of bed just before 5 am. <P>“When I saw the big flash in front of the trees, I saw of the flash of the explosion,” says eyewitness Peter Torres. “And, the big banging, the big explosion."

Torres is a mechanic at the Civil Air Patrol facility at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. He was jolted out of bed when the aircraft went down a block from his house. Robert Walker got his wake-up call from his neighbors. They started telephoning just before 5 am.

“A lot of them didn’t hear the crash, or see the crash,” says Walker. “But, they could smell…they were concerned about the smell.”

That smell was jet fuel from the doomed aircraft. Torres smelled it too. He says he gets a whiff of it whenever he works on aircraft.

“And I hate that smell because it makes me dizzy,” he says. “The jet fuel is similar it’s like kerosene.”

What residents north of the airport saw, smelled, and heard that morning was the Airbus A300 craft crashing during final approach on its trip from Kentucky to Birmingham. C.W. Mardis saw the crash site for himself. He’s a Battalion Chief for the Birmingham Fire department and the local Fire Marshall.

“It was a debris field stretching about a block and a half,” he says. “Debris, packages, plane wreckage, things of that nature.”

Eyewitnesses say the plane was coming in from the North, which concerns Robert Walker. He’s President of the East Lake Boulevard Homeowners Association, near the crash scene. Homeowners have complained to the City that jets on that kind of course could pass over occupied structures. The concern is over jet fuel dumps at the least, and falling wreckage at the worst. NTSB Board member Robert Sumwalt says everything, including the weather, the plane’s structure, and possible human error will be studied for the exact cause of the crash. Job one, he says, is protecting evidence.

“I want to emphasize that while we’re on-scene, we’re here to collect the perishable evidence,” he says. “That’s the evidence that can go away with the passage of time.

The full investigation could take months to complete.