Four men, 3 of which have local ties, die in plane crash - KCTV5

Area men among 4 killed in NE plane crash

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The Nebraska State Patrol has identified the four people killed aboard a small plane that crashed in a Lincoln County field in central Nebraska.

Mark Bottorff, 54, of Lancaster, Kan., was flying Bottorff Construction's twin-propeller Beechcraft Baron when it crashed Friday afternoon after taking off from North Platte's airport, Jerry Ernzen, the vice president of operations at the Atchison, Kan., company told The Associated Press by phone Saturday.

It was headed to the airport in York, about 170 miles east, Tom Latson, the National Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator into the crash, told the AP by phone Saturday. The plane crashed about 13 miles northeast of Maxwell.

The patrol says the others killed in the crash were 72-year-old Ken Babcock, of Hiawatha, Kan.; 39-year-old Jason Drane, of St. Joseph, Mo., and 53-year-old Chris Nelsen, of York, Neb.

The twin-engine was reported missing shortly after taking off from the North Platte airport around 3:46 p.m. Friday.

Federal investigators on Saturday were examining the wreckage of the small plane crash. The pilot's Kansas construction company owned the aircraft, a company official said.

"This is devastating," said Ernzen, who had worked for Bottorff for 24 years. "I've been beside him in the field, in the office. We worked together, we played together. Our families are close. He had a lot of friends."

Earlier Saturday, authorities hadn't publicly identified those killed in the crash, pending notification of their families. But Ernzen, speaking on behalf of the Bottorff family, said the three others worked for agriculture equipment companies from Kansas and Nebraska that Bottorff Construction does business with.

"Radar and radio contact was lost about 10 minutes later," said Latson, who added that he and other federal investigators were headed to the crash site on Saturday.

A search was begun when the plane didn't arrive on time at the airport in York. It was found in a remote area about 11 miles northeast of the North Platte airport, Latson said.

Bottorff is survived by his wife, Linda, and two grown children, Justin and Jordan, who both work at their father's company, Ernzen said.

"He was mentor. He was a very good leader for us here," Ernzen said. "He was just somebody we all turned to, for about everything."

Investigators, including from the Federal Aviation Administration, will study radar data, speak to any witnesses and examine the wreckage to try to determine the cause of the crash, said NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway.

Officials from the manufacturer of the plane, Hawker Beechcraft of Wichita, Kan., and the manufacturer of the plane's engine, Continental Motors of Mobile, Ala., also were headed to the crash site, Latson said.

There was a freezing drizzle and light snow in the area when the crash happened, National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn Jacobs said Saturday.

A Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman referred questions about the crash to federal investigators. A message left Saturday for the North Platte Regional Airport manager was not immediately returned.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Margery A. Beck contributed to this report.

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