Houston cardiologist Antonio Pacifico was one of the two men killed Saturday when a jet the doctor owned crashed at Hobby Airport, his wife said today.
Valentina Ugolini, a physician who practiced with her husband, said at their River Oaks home that he died in the crash. She declined further comment.
The identity of the other man on the plane, its pilot, was not available this afternoon.
The twin-engine Cessna Citation 500 crashed at 9:58 a.m. Saturday on the Hobby Airport runway, a few minutes after takeoff. The jet's takeoff, officials said, was hurried ahead of a Southwest Airlines 737 plane that was returning to the airport because of an emergency. The pilot of the Southwest flight, bound for Las Vegas, had asked for permission to return because an indicator light showed high fuel temperatures.
According to records of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Citation was registered to a business owned by Pacifico's Texas Arrhythmia Institute in the Texas Medical Center.
The 33-year-old jet, which could seat up to nine passengers, is at the center of a lawsuit pending in the 125th state District Court in Harris County.
"The maintenance of that aircraft was a key subject of the litigation," Ben Harvie, Pacifico's attorney, said late Saturday. "There are other financial issues in the lawsuit."
Pacifico, 55, was a clinical associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine, best known as the cardiologist of ex-Houston Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon.
In 2003, Pacifico led a group of investors that bought the 50-story Enron building downtown for $55.5 million after the energy giant's collapse.
Representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene of the crash today, continuing their investigation.
NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said that investigators arrived in Houston late Saturday to being what could be a year-long investigation of the crash.
"Our investigator arrived on the scene after 4 p.m., so he had only about an hour of daylight left," Peduzzi said. "Most of the work he will need to do in the immediate future is examine the wreckage. I am sure that is what he is doing today. He will examine the wreckage, draw diagrams and interview any eyewitnesses to the crash. Incidentally, he will be drawing upon the maintenance records of the plane."
Peduzzi said that, according to the information she had, the flight was bound for Corpus Christi before it crashed. Roland Herwig, an FAA spokesman, said the Citation was on a "maintenance test flight."
Emergency response to the crash was immediate, said Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Tommy Dowdy, because crews had been preparing for the expected landing of the Southwest flight.
The Southwest pilot witnessed the Cessna crash from about 7.5 miles away from the airport, said Southwest spokeswoman Paula Berg.
The Southwest flight had taken off from Hobby for Las Vegas at 9:20 a.m. But about 60 miles into the flight, the pilot declared an emergency because of the high fuel temperature indicator light, Berg said.
"There never was a high fuel temperature on the plane, it was just the indicator light," she said.
Because of the emergency, air traffic controllers instructed the Cessna pilot to take off quickly, Dowdy said. Moments after takeoff, however, the jet pilot asked for permission to return to the airport, he said.
Upon receiving the tower's OK, the pilot attempted to land the jet, but it nosedived into the runway, burst into flames, flipped and skidded nearly 300 feet, Dowdy said.
Pacifico and the pilot died at the scene, Dowdy said.
Roger Smith, a spokesman for the Houston Airport System, said, "The fire department immediately put out the fire and tried to get anyone out. But this was a very mangled plane."
A witness told authorities that when the Cessna was in the air, it appeared to wobble to one side, which could indicate an engine went out.
Meanwhile, the Southwest flight was diverted to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where it landed safely. Berg said she did not know whether any of the 119 passengers on the Southwest flight had seen the crash. The airline "ferried" another 737 to Bush to take the passengers on a 3:10 p.m. flight to Las Vegas, Berg said.
Raytheon Aircraft Services provided hangar services for the Cessna but did not maintain the craft, said Raytheon spokesperson Jackie Berger.
Hobby was closed from 9:49 a.m. to 10:58 a.m. and resumed regular operations about 11 a.m. Southwest had to divert eight flights to other cities and canceled eight others. Twenty flights were delayed by 30 minutes to three hours, Berg said.
The crash marks the second such incident involving a private aircraft at Hobby since June 20, when a Cessna 401 landed short of the runway after clipping a street sign and two pickups on Telephone Road. The pilot was not seriously injured.
Last year, the three-member crew of a Gulfstream III was killed on approach to Hobby while attempting to land in bad weather. The jet, en route to Hobby to pick up former President Bush for a trip to Ecuador, clipped a light pole on the Sam Houston Tollway and crashed into a field about three miles short of the runway.
This after an article in flying (left seat colum I believe) entitled "The secret is out, jets are easier to fly." This title and article deserves a big I can see the B757 being a different kind of difficult from say a Constilation, but am I the only one dreading all these owner operators in the FL with their Very Light Jets?
No, I worry about it too. Fortunately, there are responsible and talented owner/operators out there. I attended a safety standown last month with one, a gentleman who had learned how to fly in a Baron, progressed to a C90, and was now flying a CJ2. (After owning a CJ1)
This guy had a good safe attitude, and I was impressed with some of the things he said. (Whenever he flies to Europe, he brings along a retired United guy to help with the workload and to provide an expert opinion on all matters international.
Unfortunately, our industry is not very good at self-policing; anybody capable of writing the check will get the airplane. (Remember Thurman Munson?) I think the FAA should establish initial and recurrent standards for single-pilot jets that are slightly higher than those we professional pilots are held to. For instance, requiring physiological training, single pilot CRM, and some sort of continuing education requirement.
[FONT="]Yeah, I guess I just don't like how the manufactors/advertisors are treating this to. Articles and advertisements/salesmen statements like jets are easy to fly everyone should do it, jets can handle much broader range of weather, this is just like flying your Baron blah, blah, blah, would seem to lure the owner operator into a false sense of security.
I'm a guy of the opinion that a piper cub is just enough airplane to kill you all other planes on up are icing on the cake, each presenting their own challenges, some more demanding then others.
I just don't think the number of distractions that can come up in a jet cockpit has really been brought to light by these new VLJ makers, or traditional training has addressed for weekend warrior type pilots. It's easy to get sucked away from the task at hand when the lights start blinking, and a professional pilot with good experience under his/her belt has the prioritization skills necessary to safely operate a jet single-handed. I think the old adged of FLY THE AIRPLANE IDIOT will have to be emphasized more during training.[/FONT]