Pilot reported “very, very wild ride” before deadly crash

NORFOLK, Va. (WIVB) – A deadly Virginia plane crash was said to be a “very, very wild ride,” according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board. The crash claimed the lives of three people on board, all with ties to western New York.

The small plane crashed at the Norfolk Botanical Garden on March 4th. The flight’s pilot Michael Buxton, of Virginia Beach, was born in Buffalo and attended Canisius College, graduating in 1975. His passengers were William M. Shaver, 60, of Holland, and Ted Reinhardt, 62, of Tonawanda.

According to the NTSB preliminary report, the pilot told air traffic control about serious turbulence before attempting to land. After being diverted from an airport in Suffolk, Virginia, Buxton was cleared to land at Norfolk International Airport.

The controller asked the pilot if he was experiencing any equipment problems, and the pilot stated, “It’s literally a washing machine as soon as we go through a cloud deck, the cloud deck’s at 1,200 feet, before that everything’s easy, but once we get to 1,200 feet, it’s a washing machine.”

A few minutes later he told the controller the plane was “experiencing moderate turbulence, there are things floating around the cabin.”

He was cleared for his approach, and advised the controller that they were having a “very, very wild ride.” He said some of his instruments needed to be re-aligned during the descent, and that he would appreciate some radar feedback.

Aviation expert Bob Miller questions if the turbulence caused some of the plane’s instruments to work incorrectly.

Miller said, “They are absolutely critical. These are the instruments that tell the pilot which direction the airplane flying in. And the attitude or whether or not the wings are level.”

The pilot and the controller exchanged information, and the pilot noted problems with their precession twice before landing. He also said he had a half-hour of fuel left on board.

The plane was eventually cleared to land, and no further radio transmissions were received from the pilot.

Miller explained, “If you’re descending into severe turbulence, you can climb up and go around. But here again, the pilot had closed off his options because he was running low on fuel.”

The plane crashed 2,300 feet northwest of the runway. It crashed into trees at the Botanical Gardens.

va crasPhotos | Crash scene at Norfolk Botanical Garden

The victims of the flight are remembered fondly by loved ones.

Buxton became a child psychologist in Virginia. “He was always there to talk with us and help us through things, and I just loved him dearly, I miss him” said Buxton’s friend Sean Devlin.

Reinhardt was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 1985 as a rock and fusion drummer. His band, Gamalon was also inducted in 2002.

Shaver’s son remembered him saying he, ”Always put others before himself and lived for his family. He has made an impact on everyone he met, if even just one time.”

The official cause of the crash won’t be determined until the NTSB completes its final report.

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