Plane crash cause likely to be ruled accidental |

Plane crash cause likely to be ruled accidental

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County sheriff’s investigators will probably rule an ultralight plane crash that killed two men accidental, officials said.

Robert Granberry, 54, of South Lake Tahoe, and his student, Robert Ross, 29, of Reno died in the crash northeast of Genoa Wednesday morning. Witnesses said the plane broke up in midair.

Federal Aviation Administration officials were notified, but declined to investigate because the two-seat plane, which included an aluminum frame covered with canvas and a single engine, was considered experimental. FAA rules don’t cover experimental aircraft.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said Thursday that investigators were reviewing maintenance records and interviewing people familiar with the plane to determine what may have caused it to fail. A witness said he saw the plane roll up on its side just before a wing snapped.

Investigators speculated Granberry and Ross died instantly. Barring evidence of foul play or sabotage, Pierini said the case will probably be classified an accident.

Lt. Ross Chichester estimated Friday the investigation will take another week to complete. The plane wreckage is being stored at Minden-Tahoe Airport, and Chichester said outside experts may be asked to inspect the parts.

Granberry and Ross left Minden-Tahoe Airport around 10 a.m. Wednesday. County operations manager Jim Braswell, who oversees the airport, said Granberry flew almost daily and held the necessary licenses and certificates to teach.

Braswell said Granberry’s plane was exempt from rules that generally limit ultralights to a single passenger because it was used for teaching.

An Internet site operated by the United States Ultralight Association says the ultralight category covers powered- and non-powered aircraft that are intended for sport or recreational use. They are restricted to daylight use, can carry a maximum of five gallons of fuel and are not to operate over congested areas.

The site says powered vehicles have a 254-pound weight limit and a maximum speed of 55 knots.

The crash was the third fatal plane wreck since June. The pilot of a sailplane died June 13 after a stabilizer fell off, causing it to dive. Two others died July 13 when their glider broke apart in the air.