EAST PALO ALTO, California – The plane carrying three Tesla Motors employees that crashed in a residential area last week had been flying about 50 feet above the ground when it struck power lines and a power line tower, a federal report confirmed late Wednesday.
But the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report into the Feb. 17, accident did not address what could have caused the aircraft to hit the electrical equipment.
The Cessna 310R went down in fog in an East Palo Alto neighborhood shortly after takeoff about 8 a.m. All three aboard were killed and the fiery aircaft wreckage damaged homes and cars, but no one on the ground was injured.
Investigators say a full investigation is expected to be completed in five or six months.
"Examination of the accident site revealed that the airplane struck power lines and a power line tower about 50 feet above ground," the report said.
In an apparent reference the fog, it added that "instrument meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight plan was filed."
The report included information from people who saw the crash, but did not disclose names.
"One witness, who was walking on a levee near the accident site reported that she observed an airplane `suddenly appear from the fog' left of her position. The witness stated that she continued to watch the airplane fly in a level or slightly nose up attitude from her left to her right at a low altitude until it impacted power lines shortly after," the report said.
Tesla earlier identified the victims as Doug Bourn, 53, a senior electrical engineer with Tesla; Andrew Ingram, 31, an electrical engineer; and Brian Finn, 42, a senior interactive electronics manager.
The NTSB said the aircraft was flown by a "commercial pilot" but didn't further identify him.
The plane was registered to Air Unique Inc., a company owned by Bourn.
Vicky Tuite, who worked with Bourn at Tesla before leaving the company in 2008, said he also was a flight instructor and offered a class for aspiring pilots at the company.