Investigation begins into Little Rock plane crash that killed 5

Emergency vehicles appear near the location where a small aircraft crashed while taking off from the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday Feb. 22, 2023. (Staton Breidenthal/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal investigators headed to Arkansas Thursday to determine the cause of a small plane crash that killed five employees of an environmental consulting firm.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board planned to begin work to document the crash site and examine the plane’s wreckage, agency spokesperson Jennifer Gabris said in an email.

Gabris said a preliminary report on their findings should be released in about two weeks.

A twin-engine Beech B2000 airplane crashed at about noon Wednesday near an industrial site in Little Rock shortly after taking off from the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that all five people on board the plane were killed. The plane was heading to Columbus, Ohio.

Environmental consulting firm CTEH, based in Little Rock, said the five dead, including the pilot, were all employees responding to the scene of an Ohio metals plant where an explosion this week killed one worker and sent more than a dozen to the hospital.

CTEH on Thursday identified the dead employees as Gunter Beaty, 23, a production safety data manager; Kyle Bennett, 36, a staffing manager, logistics; Micah Kendrick, 41, a safety supervisor; Sean Sweeney, 64, a pilot; and Glenmarkus Walker, 32, a rapid responder.

The crash occurred as a line of thunderstorms that the National Weather Service said included wind gusts of 40 mph (64 kph) moved through the Little Rock area. The NTSB said its investigators will be looking into whether weather and other factors played a role in the crash.