Preliminary report into Nashville plane crash that killed Ontario family released

A preliminary report from U.S. authorities probing a plane crash in Tennessee that killed a family of five from Ontario said one witness heard “sputtering” and “popping” sounds from the aircraft’s engine moments before it crashed alongside a highway west of downtown Nashville.

Friday’s report from the National Transportation Safety Board described how pilot Victor Dotsenko of King Township, Ont., told a Nashville International Airport controller in a “faint transmission” that his engine had shut down.

Nashville crash

“I’m going to be landing, I don’t know where,” said Dotsenko, according to the report.

The controller declared an emergency and cleared Dotsenko to land the plane carrying his wife and three children on a runway.

But the pilot, in his last message to the controller, said he was too far away to make it.

The report found video recordings showed the airplane descended over a residential neighbourhood and passed over the interstate highway before it crashed and burst into flames.

Multiple witnesses reported hearing what sounded like “engine issues” from the plane as it passed overhead before the crash on March 4, the report said.

Communities in and around King Township, about 50 kilometres north of Toronto, were devastated by the deaths of Dotsenko, 43, his 39-year-old wife Rimma and their three children 12-year-old David, 10-year-old Adam and seven-year-old Emma.

Dotsenko family

Rabbi Chaim Hildeshaim of the Chabad Russian Centre of Thornhill Woods previously told The Canadian Press he had known the family for more than a decade, officiating the couple’s wedding in 2009 and performing the naming ceremonies for each of their children.

“They had a beautiful relationship between the two of them. I witnessed that on many different occasions,” he said in a phone interview.

“They were very, very devoted parents. And they did everything to educate the children, to give them the best education … and to give them a good time at the same time.”

Neighbours mourned the loss of a family they described as lovely, while officials with the private school the children attended called them “the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet.”

The single-engine plane carrying the Dotsenkos was supposed to land at the John C Tune Airport in Nashville on the third leg of its trip from Brampton, Ont. It had stopped twice and re-fuelled at the Erie International Airport in Pennsylvania, and at the Mount Sterling airport in Kentucky.

The plane departed for its third flight of the day at about 7:15, the report found, noting “the pilot did not communicate any concerns or irregularities to air traffic control.”

But the plane did not land at the airport as planned, instead overflying the facility for “unknown reasons,” the report said.

Because the plane was in Nashville International Airport airspace at that altitude, it was a controller from that airport who remained in contact with the pilot.

The crash occurred at 7:43 p.m. central standard time, the report said.

The preliminary report found the plane’s left fuel tank was breached during the accident and a large fire engulfed the aircraft post-impact, largely consuming the left wing and fuselage.

The report describes the damage to the plane in detail, noting the engine was relatively intact despite damage from the impact and heat exposure.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024.

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