For the first time, we’re hearing from the people onboard about what went wrong.
The pilot told police a key broke off in the ignition while the plane was in the air, and that led to an emergency landing behind Mayfield Middle School.
The I-Team obtained body camera video captured by Mayfield Heights officers who responded to the scene. Emergency crews can be seen rolling up. The first officer shouts out: “Is anybody trapped in here?”
Police found one man on the ground nursing some injuries from the crash, while a man and a woman walked around after getting out of the plane.
An officer asks the pilot who was at the controls: “How long were you up in the air?” She answers: “Not even five minutes.”
That woman, Catherine Terez, a pilot-in-training, told the officer she had a flight instructor next to her. Another pilot was seated behind them.
Terez told police a key broke off in the ignition. That happened while turning the key and troubleshooting an issue with the engine in the air.
“We couldn’t get it started back up,” she said.
“I was flying. [Another pilot] did the landing. We started to look for a place where we could land. I was keeping the plane at its best flight speed, while he got us down,” Terez said.
That plane took off from the Cuyahoga County Airport. We went there to try to talk to the man investigators described as the lead pilot and flight trainer. But, as we approached the office and identified ourselves, a woman slammed the door on us.
So, we called the office and were told the man we came to see was still at home recovering, and the company had no comment.
We also spoke to Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and flight instructor who’s been a pilot for 41 years. We asked: “How unusual is it for somebody to say the key broke off in mid-flight?”
“That is very unusual to hear,” Katz told us.
“I’m concerned that the engine failed. Why did the engine fail? These are questions the [National Transportation Safety Board] will be looking into,” he said.
There’s been no word yet from federal investigators. But the police video gives us the first words from the people on board.
“You picked a good place to land, I’ll give you that,” an officer tells the pilot, Terez.
She answers, simply, “Yeah.”
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is also investigating.
For this story, we reached out to everyone who’d been onboard, and no one responded.
We’ll update this story as we uncover more about the case and the investigation.