NARA - The wreckage of small plane that crashed Monday killing two people was found scattered over a wide area, indicating the aircraft likely broke into pieces midair, an air safety investigator said.
The single-engine plane might have caught fire after fragmenting and then fell into a mountainous area of Nara Prefecture shortly after leaving an airport in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, the investigator said.
“A plane’s body can’t break up after crashing into the ground,” Koji Fukuda, an investigator at Japan Transport Safety Board, told reporters. “There is no doubt that the plane came apart midair,” Fukuda said, adding that he cannot say how it happened at the moment.
The body, wings, tailplane and other parts of the aircraft were found scattered on both sides of the mountain ridge, Fukuda said, adding that the plane likely dropped vertically.
The engine and propeller appeared to have caught fire, the investigator said.
According to Nara prefectural police, the JTSB explained that one of the main wings may have fallen apart first and then the fuel tank may have caught fire. Local residents near the crash site said they saw a plane looking like a spinning fireball hurtle into the mountainous area.
The flight recorder of the crashed TBM 700 aircraft has not been recovered.
Ryoichi Tanaka, a 68-year-old company executive, and his wife, Sachiko, 55, were found dead near the cockpit. They were flying to Fukushima Prefecture after departing from the Yao airport at around noon when they inexplicably changed course and headed back to the airport, according to a person in charge of maintenance for the plane.