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Ebersol's son's body identified in plane wreckage

Cockpit recorder shows crew's conversation 'routine'

Authorities examine the plane's wreckage Monday, the day after it crashed during takeoff.
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A body matching that of Dick Ebersol's 14-year-old son is found.

A witness describes the scene following the plane crash.
Dick Ebersol
Disasters and Accidents

MONTROSE, Colorado (CNN) -- A body found Monday beneath the wreckage of a corporate jet that crashed in Colorado the day before has been positively identified as Edward Ebersol, the 14-year-old son of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol and TV actress Susan Saint James, a coroner said Tuesday.

The younger Ebersol was killed instantly when the aircraft landed on top of him after he was thrown from it, Montrose County Coroner Mark Young said at a news conference.

Dick Ebersol and another of his sons, Charles, 21, were injured in the crash, which claimed the lives of the pilot, Luis Alberto Polanco Estaillat, 50, and a flight attendant, Warren T. Richardson III, 36. Both crew members also died instantly from massive trauma on impact, Young said.

The copilot, who has not been identified, remains in critical condition in the burn unit of a Denver hospital, Young said, while the Ebersols are still hospitalized in Grand Junction.

Family of the dead crew members visited the crash site Tuesday at Montrose Regional Airport, about 175 miles southwest of Denver, said Arnold Scott, the National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator.

The initial analysis of the plane's cockpit voice recorder, conducted Tuesday at an NTSB lab in Washington, showed that it retained "good recording quality" despite being charred on the outside in the fire after the crash, Scott said.

He said the recorder captured 31 minutes of the flight crew speaking before the crash, though he would not disclose details of what was heard. When asked if anything on the tape might point to a cause, Scott said, "We understand it was all routine."

The jet, a Canadair Challenger 601, veered off the runway and crashed into an area full of trees and brush as it was taking off for South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday morning. The aircraft then burst into flames.

Scott said the plane apparently skidded on its belly before the crash and did not flip or cartwheel. He also said the runway showed "skip marks" that appear to show that the pilot did not have the plane fully airborne before the crash.

"If he did become airborne, it wasn't for any prolonged length of time. It was just skip marks across the ground," Scott said.

Among the possible causes being investigated are wet, snowy weather and the configuration of the plane's wings and flaps at takeoff, he said. The initial examination of the debris indicated no breakup before the crash and no obvious maintenance faults that might have contributed to the accident, he said.

At the time the plane crashed, a wet snow was falling in the area, limiting visibility. An airport worker who was cleaning snow from the runway at the time told investigators there was about a quarter-inch of slush, which Scott said the jet should have been able to handle.

The plane was not de-iced before takeoff, which Scott said is another factor investigators are exploring. Investigators were told by airport workers that the issue of de-icing did not come up during conversations between the pilot and airport personnel, he said.

"The captain did not ask to be de-iced, and he wasn't asked if he wanted to be de-iced," Scott said.

Scott said about 600 Canadair Challengers have gone into service worldwide, with five previous crashes reported. One of those being looked at is a 2002 crash in Birmingham, England, in which icing of the wings was a factor, he said.

Scott also confirmed that after the pilot was told that the runway normally used for takeoffs was being plowed, he decided to use a shorter runway. Scott said the shorter runway should still have been long enough for the takeoff.

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