BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The National Transportation Safety Board is blaming loss of control by the pilot and poor visibility for the April 2015 crash of a private plane in central Illinois that killed seven.

In the report released Wednesday, the NTSB says the pilot’s failure to maintain control resulted in the airplane “exceeding its critical angle of attack,” resulting in a stall. The agency determined that pilot fatigue, an unexplained disconnected cable and unbalanced cargo that dragged the plane down toward its tail also contributed to the crash.

The Cessna 414A was approaching Central Illinois Regional Airport near Bloomington when it took a turn east, climbed and then descended, crashing into a field. The plane was returning to Bloomington from the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis.

The Pantagraph in Bloomington reports the NTSB investigation found “no evidence of (sleep loss) or medical conditions that indicated poor sleep quality for the pilot, Tom Hileman.

However, the agency says that, at the time of crash, the pilot’s extended hours of continuous wakefulness likely led to fatigue.

“The accident occurred more than 2 hours after (Hileman) routinely went to sleep, which suggests that the pilot’s circadian system would not have been promoting alertness,” according to the report. “The pilot likely had been awake for 18 hours.”

The glideslope antenna cable, which relays data that helps the pilot track the plane’s balance, was likely inadequately connected or secured during the flight, making the data unavailable.

In addition to Hileman, the victims of the crash included Illinois State University associate basketball coach Torrey Ward and administrator Aaron Leetch.

The men had close ties to ISU athletics, and a memorial to them now stands near Redbird Arena in Normal.


Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com