NTSB Can't Nail Down Cause of '04 Crash of Piper Navajo

OXFORD, Conn. -- A months-long investigation into a 2004 plane crash in Ticonderoga, N.Y., that killed a local veteran pilot and his passenger has failed to pinpoint the cause, that could remain a mystery.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a summary of its probe into the accident Friday, and based on the findings, reported it is unable to determine a probable cause.

"The reason for the occurrence is undetermined," the report states.

"This is considered the final report on the case and will remain closed unless someone develops more information," said Paul Cox, the senior NTSB investigator who investigated the crash. "Any new information would be reviewed for inclusion," he said Tuesday. Cox compiled a report on the crash that was released in February. A five-member NTSB board produced the probable cause report released last week.

Cox admitted it's unusual for the NTSB not to find the cause of a plane crash, but said there are a number of ways the Ticonderoga crash could have happened.

Milton F. Marshall, 76, owner of Capital Aviation based at Waterbury-Oxford Airport, was the pilot of the twin-engine Piper Navajo that crashed and exploded, under clear skies, in a heavily wooded area of the eastern Adirondacks on July 10, 2004.

Michael Keilty, 40, of Newtown, the only passenger, was under investigation by the FBI for fraud at the time and tried to take out a life insurance policy for himself prior to the accident, the NTSB report states.

The magazine from a .380-caliber pistol was found at the accident site with two rounds missing. However, no weapon was found at the site and no weapon of that caliber could be linked to either man, the report said.

Autopsies could not determine if either man was dead or alive before the impact of the crash, and the cause of death for both men is listed as "undetermined" by investigators.

A post-accident inspection of the airplane found it was structurally sound.

At the time of his death, Keilty was under pressure to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars that he was accused of swindling from senior citizens. That scheme was discovered two days before the crash, according to a NTSB report.

That report also said Keilty had loaned $4,000 to Marshall, that the loan hadn't been repaid and that Marshall was providing flight services to Keilty in exchange for payment of the loan.

After crossing a lake near the destination, the plane flew over rising terrain, along a saddleback, and struck a stand of old-growth trees jutting above some younger trees, the report states.

During the last 48 seconds of radar coverage, the plane climbed 600 feet with no erratic deviations.

Investigators said the crash scene was among the worst they had seen, with body parts strewn about the area, making DNA tests necessary to identify the victims.

Marshall held an airline transport pilot certificate and had retired from a major airline. He had logged 32,000 flight hours.

Keilty told Marshall and others he was a pilot, but the NTSB investigation found that was not true.

Kathy Leonzi, Marshall's daughter, has maintained the crash was not an accident. In a 2005 interview, she said her father was "very safety conscious and meticulous about his flying" and "would never crash into trees."

She has since moved out of state with her husband and children after losing her father's business. She could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Keilty's business went bankrupt shortly after his death and his widow has since moved to Florida.

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