No Mechanical Problems Found with the Plane
It was a devastating incident that shook the state of North Dakota. A North Dakota state senator, Doug Larsen, along with his wife, Amy, and their two young sons, Christian and Everett, were involved in a tragic plane crash near Moab, Utah. The preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shed some light on the circumstances surrounding the crash.
According to the report, the plane took off from a remote Utah airport on October 1, 2023, without the runway lights on. Security video and a witness confirmed that the runway lights remained dark when the plane took off. Investigators, however, did not provide an explanation as to why the lights were not on. Initial inspections of the wreckage did not reveal any mechanical problems with the plane.
A Dark Night with No Moonlight
The Larsen family had been in Utah for less than three hours on their way home from a family gathering in Arizona. The security video showed Larsen buying fuel shortly after landing at the airport in Moab. By the time they returned to the airport, it was already dark with no moonlight to guide their way. The plane’s lights illuminated, and it rolled down the runway before taking off.
Tragically, the plane only climbed 200 feet into the air before starting to descend. It ultimately crashed into a hilltop, killing everyone on board. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the crash and will release a full report in over a year.
Possible Factors to Consider
The NTSB’s report mentioned that Larsen’s experience flying using instruments alone might be a focus of the investigation. The darkness of the night could have made it difficult for Larsen to maintain visual orientation, emphasizing the importance of relying on instruments. As a pilot who had flown Black Hawk helicopters during his time in the North Dakota Army National Guard, Larsen likely had instrument training.
Weight distribution is also a factor being considered. Investigators will assess how much weight was on the plane with four people on board, as well as the additional fuel that was recently purchased. Overloading the plane could have contributed to the crash.
A Lasting Impact
The loss of Senator Larsen and his family was mourned by the community. Larsen, a Republican, had been elected to the North Dakota Senate in 2020 and was highly regarded by his colleagues. Funerals were held for the Larsen family, and they were laid to rest in the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery.
Justin Gerhardt, a project manager and former member of the North Dakota Army National Guard, has been appointed to serve the remainder of Larsen’s term in the Senate. The seat will be up for election next year for a full, four-year term.
As the investigation continues, the state of North Dakota remembers the Larsen family and the impact they had on their community.