Investigation Continues into Fatal Plane Crash in Alpine

Staff Report
NewsWest 9

ALPINE - Officials are still investigating after a plane crash Sunday morning in Alpine that took the lives of five people early Sunday morning.

Investigators spent Monday afternoon up in a helicopter looking over the airport as well as the path the plane took when it took off. The investigators tell NewsWest 9 they saw scorch marks and skid marks before the actual wreckage.

Witnesses also said the plane was flying over Highway 118 but didn't look like the plane was gaining any altitude and shortly after the plane blew up in a fire ball and ended up crashing about two miles from the end of the runway.

On Sunday, Brewster County Sheriff Ronnie Dodson tells NewsWest9 his office got a call about a plane going down around 12:15 Sunday morning.

Dodson says the plane is a Cessna 421 medical plane that carries patients to hospitals in the Midland-Odessa area when needed.

The Associated Press reports the plane was heading for Midland International Airport before it crashed. The Texas Department of Public Safety says the pilot was apparently trying to make an emergency landing when the plane hit a rut, overturned and burned.

The Texas Department of Public Safety released the names of the victims:

  • Mary Folger, 73, of Midland
  • Richard Folger, 78, of Midland
  • Sharon Falkner, 49, a medic from Fort Davis
  • Tracy Chambers, 42, a medic from Alpine
  • Ted Caffarel, 59, a pilot who recently moved to Alpine from Beaumont

DPS says that Mary Folger was the patient on board the plane.

"We've had about 4 plane crashes this year you know with just small planes with very minor injuries," Sheriff Dodson said. "In fact one of them was with this company, but all of them were minor injury plane crashes. Crop duster planes another federal government plane, but this by far is the worst. With two family members, the medics and the pilot." 

"It is something that is very important for us to find out why these accidents are continuing to happen," NTSB Chief Investigator Jennifer Rodi said. "We've issued a plethora of recommendations to the industry regarding these types of accidents yet unfortunately they seem to continue to occurs. So, with luck maybe we'll be able to identify something in this particular accident where the change has or has not been made that we've recommended. And see if we can provide additional support for those recommendations."

The crash scene is just northeast of the Alpine airport. FAA officials are at the scene and officials with the NTSB are expected to be in Alpine by Sunday night from Colorado.

AP reports the FAA lists the aircraft as registered to O'Hara Flying Service II LP of Amarillo. Company owner Denny O'Hara declined to comment to The Associated Press.

The plane was on fire and exploded several times when Brewster County Deputies arrived on the scene early Sunday morning, but none of the deputies were injured while responding.

NTSB Officials say it is still too early to tell what caused the accident and will be on scene throughout Monday night investigating.