CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Investigators said errors made by the flight crew contributed to the crash of a Charlotte-based C-130 that was fighting wild fires in South Dakota back in July.
Killed on impact were Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville, Maj. Joseph McCormick, 36, of Belmont, Maj. Ryan David, 35 of Boone, and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon, 50, of Charlotte.
Investigators said the plane flew into a severe down-draft of wind called a 'microburst' that originated from a thunderstorm near where the crew was attempting to dump retardant on a wild fire.
After making their first pass, investigators said the crew was aware of turbulent weather and struggled with an unexplained drop in air speed.
Spokesperson, Lt. Col. Robert Carver said, "We know that whatever was going on in the cockpit, they were doing their best to avoid the crash."
A spotter plane flying ahead of the C-130 shares the blame, investigators said, for failing to warn the crew of severe turbulence.
Before the Air National Guard plane started the run that ended in the crash, "It was very clear they should not have attempted the second drop," said Brig. Gen. Randall Guthrie, the Air Force Reserve officer who led the crash investigation.
On the day the crash report was issued, there was a Fallen Hero Memorial Ceremony held at UNC Charlotte for Lt. Col. Mikeal who earned his degree in history from the school in 1991.
Among those attending was his wife, Marlo Mikeal.
She said she had just recently visited the crash site herself, hoping to find some closure and she did not want to talk about the findings of the investigation.
"It's all in the report and I don't want to go into any details," she said.
The Air National Guard will now study the accident board's findings.
"Study them carefully and learn from them so that tragedies like this don't happen again," said Carver.
Click here to read the full report.