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Plane short on safety gear

It had just single navigational device, board's report says

The plane that crashed into the Great Salt Lake Jan. 14, killing all nine people aboard, may not have been furnished with the proper safety equipment, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The only navigational tool aboard the aircraft was a handheld global positioning device, the report states. It was tethered to the craft's dash with Velcro tape and was akin to GPS devices found at any local electronics store, said Arnold Scott, NTSB air safety investigator.

In fair weather conditions, Scott believes the GPS device would have been adequate. However, poor weather conditions — like those encountered as the plane flew into Utah from Nevada — require more safety gear, he said.

"Regulation states that if you're going to fly in inclement weather, the airplane has to be equipped with the necessary equipment to do the job. And in this case it was not," Scott said.

The nine victims, all members of Sky Dive Utah in Tooele, were returning from a sky-diving trip in Mesquite, Nev., when the Model 65 A90 King Air Beechcraft crashed about half a mile off the shore of the Great Salt Lake. The wreckage was found 11 miles southwest of the Great Salt Lake Marina and about 700 yards from the shoreline resting in five feet of water.

Scott said pilot John Thomas Cashman, 41, received a weather briefing before leaving Nevada and was made aware of the inclement weather near Tooele.

According to the report, a light snow was falling and visibility was reduced to a one-quarter mile radius the night of the accident.

"The weather was such that he should have had other equipment in that airplane or not have flown at all," Scott said.

According to the report, the aircraft was equipped for visual flight rules (VFR) only, meaning pilots rely on the horizon and their view of the airport to fly the plane. However, in cases of bad weather, pilots must revert to an instrument flight rules plan and use the aircraft's instrument panel.

"You don't need any radios to fly VFR, but if you're going to shoot an instrument approach or fly in bad weather, you better have something in that airplane," Scott said.

Scott said he could not determine whether additional equipment would have prevented the accident. The final cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

Friends of the sky divers described Cashman as an experienced and competent pilot. He received his private pilot's license at 17 and by age 24 had his commercial pilot's license.

Besides Cashman, the other victims were Lisa Ellis, 34; Mike Hurren, 51, and his wife, Gayle Hurren, 45; Nathan Hall, 29; Denise Stott, 26; Charles Wilson, 31; Marriah Hutson, 25; and Jay Johnson, 24.