Planes in Fatal Crash Owned by Aviation Agencies’ Employees

U.S. aviation accident investigators have obtained help from Canada to probe a May 28 collision between two small planes owned by employees of separate federal agencies.

A plane owned by a National Transportation Safety Board employee collided over Sumerduck, Virginia, with an aircraft owned by a Federal Aviation Administration worker, according to an e-mailed release from the NTSB.

James Michael Duncan, 60, a physician at the safety board, and a passenger died when their plane caught fire after the collision, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said today in an e-mailed statement. The passenger was identified as Paul Gardella Jr., 57, of Burke, Virginia.

Duncan, of Bethesda, Maryland, was the NTSB’s chief technical adviser for medical issues, Kelly Nantel, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. He previously served as chief pf space medicine at NASA, according to that agency’s website.

The owner and sole occupant of the other plane, Thomas Proven, survived the collision, Geller said.

Proven, 70, is an accident investigator with the FAA, the agency said in an e-mailed statement. He was off duty at the time of the accident, it said.

Because U.S. government employees were involved, NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman, after consulting FAA acting Administrator Michael Huerta, asked the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to handle the investigation, the NTBS said in the release.

The safety board, an independent agency that reports directly to the White House, determines the cause of aviation accidents and makes non-binding safety recommendations. The FAA regulates the aviation industry.

The Canadian team was scheduled to hold a briefing on the accident at 3 p.m. today in Washington, according to an e-mailed statement from the TSB.

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