The daughter of an Ohio couple said Monday evening that her parents died in a small-plane crash Sunday afternoon at Wheeler Downtown Airport.
Melissa Lallo-Johnson of Kansas City said John and Diana Lallo of Girard, Ohio, came to Missouri to visit family, including Lallo-Johnson, her husband and their son.
“My parents were absolutely great people, and we are devastated,” said Lallo-Johnson, one of the couple’s four children.
Lallo-Johnson said she knew nothing about why the plane crashed, but said her father loved flying small aircraft.
“It was his passion to fly,” she said.
The Jackson County medical examiner later confirmed the identities, but a federal investigator said Monday it could take a long time to determine what caused the crash.
Mitchell Gallo, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said crews were cleaning up the wreckage of the single-engine aircraft from the field just south of the main runway.
That wreckage will be taken to an undisclosed location where investigators will study the aircraft’s systems in more detail to begin piecing together the cause of the accident.
Speaking to reporters on a levee overlooking the crash site, Gallo confirmed witness accounts that the plane went down about 2:45 p.m. Sunday without fire or explosion.
“There is no evidence of soot or fire,” Gallo said. “But I can’t draw any conclusions from that yet.”
Gallo said that investigations usually take about a year but cautioned that “each crash is different.”
The Lallo family owns McRoyal Industries, which provides products to the food service industry.
Federal aviation records show that the plane was owned by Air McRoyal LLC and list the same address as that of the manufacturing company.
In an email to The Kansas City Star, James B. Dietz, a Youngstown lawyer who has represented Air McRoyal, declined to discuss either the accident or the firm, saying the family still was trying to cope with the accident.
The plane was built by the Mooney Aviation Co. in 1978, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman, said his agency’s understanding of the basic facts of the crash had not changed overnight.
Just after takeoff, the pilot reported engine trouble and was cleared to return to the airport. The plane soon crashed on the south side of the levee, about a quarter-mile from the runway.
Witnesses said the plane appeared to have turned back to the airport as it crossed north over the Missouri River. Rescuers found the plane on its belly between the levee and the river, its wings still attached.
Gallo said Monday that the small plane did not have a flight data recorder, but that some instrumentation on the aircraft, such as GPS systems, may have recorded the plane’s speed, altitude and headings during its final minutes of flight.
Monday’s work also included documenting the wreckage and crash site with photographs and notes. Witnesses to the accident still need to be interviewed and pilot and maintenance records of the aircraft scrutinized.
Gallo said he isn’t prepared to say what event, or cascade of events, caused the crash until he’s pulled together the facts.
“We don’t have the factual evidence at this time,” Gallo said.