UPDATE: Investigators wrap up on-scene investigation in deadly p - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Investigators wrap up on-scene investigation in deadly plane crash

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STEVENS POINT (WAOW) – Two federal agencies have wrapped up their on-scene investigation after a deadly plane crash at the Stevens Point Airshow.

Police say pilot William Cowden, 47, of Menomonie died after his plane crashed in a wooded area.

Police say the crash happened just before 12:30 p.m. Sunday. They say the plane was performing tricks when it went down near the airport runway. Officers say Cowden was flying a 1993 YAK-55M. They say he was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It was into a wooded area, which is directly east of the airport, near the Green Circle Trail." said Sergeant Tony Babl of the Stevens Point Police Department. "From what detectives had told me, there was not, it didn't burst into flames, there wasn't a fire involved at all."

National Transportation Safety Board officials tells Newsline 9 they arrived on scene late Sunday night, but it was too dark to start the investigation, so it began Monday morning. A spokesperson told Newsline 9 investigators have finished going through the aircraft. They say they looked at the engine and log books and now they're in the fact-gathering phase. A spokesperson says the engine is not being sent out for further investigation.

The plane wreckage is now in a private hanger at the Stevens Point airport. The spokesperson says investigators will continue to interview pilots and witnesses who saw the crash. 

"We did have fire department members, paramedics and police officers race to the crash site to see if any life saving measures could be done," explained Sgt. Babl. "Our second priority is to protect the scene. We don't have jurisdiction over air plane crashes so our role there is just to protect the scene until the federal agencies take over."

As part of the investigation, NTSB officials say they will also continue to review weather and maintenance reports and video taken by witnesses.

"Oh I couldn't believe what I'm seeing there. The last couple of seconds he just didn't pull out, just a puff of smoke went to hit the ground and that was it," said Melvin Burskey of Neenah, who witnessed the crash.

"He was doing his routine and it looked like he was coming straight down, he's right beyond that tower out in the field and everybody's saying 'he's got to pull out, he's got to pull out' but he just never did," said another witness of the crash, Steven Marquardt of Stevens Point.

After the crash, organizers canceled the rest of the show and asked crowds to leave.

A section of Green Circle Trail was closed after the crash. Officials say all the trails are now open. 

Cowden's body has been taken to Madison for an autopsy.

Officials say it could be 12-18 months before they have a cause for the crash.


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