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Air traffic control audio details moments before deadly plane crash in Waukesha County

Posted at 10:17 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 23:45:54-04

WAUKESHA — Air traffic control audio from Tuesday's deadly plane crash details the moments the pilot knew he was in trouble.

"My destination is Selena, Kansas," radioed Randy Reimer.

It was a destination that 74-year-old Randy Reimer and his wife Susie would never get to. They had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and were headed home to New Mexico when their plane crashed in a wooded area in Waukesha County.

Randy and Susie Reimer

"It was a gamble where he lost," said Robert Katz.

Katz, a local commercial pilot and flight instructor, says air traffic control audio from the crash tells him Randy was looking for clearance to fly in weather conditions that were not ideal.

"The overcast was at 900 feet at Timmerman, which is below basic VFR weather minimums. In order for him to get off the ground in those weather conditions, he has to request what is known as a special VFR clearance. That's exactly what Kobe Bryant's pilot did," said Katz.

Those are conditions that can become extremely dangerous if one is not equipped to handle the situation.

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"In doing so without qualification and proficiency to fly in the weather, you are playing with fire," said Katz.

"We've got to climb. I hope to get above the clouds," radioed Randy.

"This pilot elected to press on into lowering ceilings until ultimately he was swallowed by the clouds with no hope of escape," said Katz.

And when surrounded by clouds, Katz says pilots can become delirious.

"We don't know which way is up. We don't know if we are turning, if we are climbing, if we are descending. Because we are flying blind," said Katz.

However, he says these incidents don't have to happen, and that the responsibility is on the pilot to determine if conditions are safe enough to fly.

"The regulations are in place, but it's based on an honor system to comply with those regulations. More often than not, the pilot is the one who's going to lose along with his passengers and innocent people on the ground," said Katz.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that an NTSB investigator completed the on-scene portion of the investigation, and that the airplane was brought to a secure facility. According to a statement from the board:

"Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, airplane maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records. NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation."

"The preliminary report, which includes all the factual information learned to date, is expected to publish 15 days after the accident."

"At this early stage of an investigation, NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available. Investigations involving fatalities, and other major investigations currently take between 12 and 24 months to complete," according to the statement.

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