WEINER — Two men who died Monday in a rural Poinsett County airplane accident had not been identified by authorities as of press deadline Tuesday.
Poinsett County Sheriff Kevin Molder said Tuesday that the state medical examiner should positively identify the victims by late today or Thursday. While the next-of-kin were notified, Molder hasn’t released the names of the victims per a request from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is probing the cause of the fatal accident.
Although he didn’t mention the circumstances, Mayor Harold Copenhaver acknowledged during Tuesday’s city council meeting the death of Sean Stem, a pilot and president of Construction Network Inc.
“I would also like to mention with heavy heart about losing a friend this week,” Copenhaver said. “He was a civic leader and our prayers go out to the Stem family. Sean was involved in our community and he also represented us on committees as well.”
A source with knowledge of the situation said Stem died in the crash.
The Hawker Beech twin-engine plane was headed from Jonesboro to Conway, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.
“After departing from Jonesboro, shortly after takeoff the plane disappeared from radar and there were no further communications,” he said.
NTSB estimates that the plane crashed at about 9:27 a.m. Monday, Knudson said. Poinsett County dispatchers received a call reporting the accident just before 9:45 a.m.
A Federal Aviation Administration preliminary report notes that the aircraft, which is registered to Stratus Sales LLC of Jonesboro, was destroyed and “crashed under unknown circumstances and caught fire.” A member of the flight crew and a passenger died, it indicates.
Staffers with the FAA’s Little Rock Flight Standards District Office are “doing the on-scene documentation,” which will be forwarded to an NTSB investigator, Knudson said.
“We don’t know of any witness reports at this time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any,” Knudson said. “The investigator will write up a preliminary report based on the facts and circumstances of the accident as we understand them at this early point in the investigation and we hope to release that in the next few weeks.”
FAA public affairs specialist Elizabeth Cory said that investigations of this sort “typically take a year or more to complete.”
Northeast Arkansans can submit witness reports or relay information to investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org.