Crew of Learjet Carrying Rocker Travis Barker Died of Burns, Smoke
September 22, 2008 - 4:49 PMA pilot and co-pilot killed in a Learjet crash in South Carolina died from smoke inhalation and burns, and two passengers were killed from the impact, officials said Monday.
Remarkably, former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM survived the Friday night crash with second- and third-degree burns. One of their doctors at a Georgia burn hospital said he expects them to fully recover.
The pilot and co-pilot were burned on their entire bodies and died within minutes of the plane's crash into an embankment about a quarter-mile from the end of the airport's runway, said Brian Setree, chief deputy coroner for Lexington County. The two passengers, who were close friends of the musicians, died on impact; no evidence of smoke was found in their lungs, Setree said.
Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said they have not determined what caused the crash. However, they a cockpit voice recorder revealed that crew members thought a tire blew and tried to abort the takeoff but couldn't stop the plane. The Learjet 60 shot off the end of the runway, ripped through a fence and crossed a highway before coming to rest, engulfed in flames.
Killed in the crash were pilot Sarah Lemmon, 31, of Anaheim Hills, Calif.; co-pilot James Bland, 52, of Carlsbad, Calif.; Chris Baker, 29, of Studio City, Calif.; and Charles Still, 25, of Los Angeles. Baker was an assistant to Barker and Still was a security guard for the musician.
Setree said it wasn't possible to determine if the crew members were conscious after the plane came to rest. A witness who came upon the scene moments after the crash said he discovered the musicians in the street near the fiery wreck as they frantically tried to douse their burning clothes.
The witness, William Owens, described the plane as a fireball shooting across the highway. Owens said he was told there were four other people on board, but the flames were too hot to get close.
The jet, which was headed for Van Nuys, Calif., is owned by Global Exec Aviation, a California-based charter company, and was certified to operate last year.
NTSB member Debbie Hersman has said pieces of tire were recovered about 2,800 feet from where the plane started its takeoff down the 8,600-foot runway. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. manufactured the tires on the Learjet, the company said Monday.
"We have been contacted by the NTSB and will cooperate fully with its investigation," Goodyear spokesman Ed Markey said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this accident."
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