A preliminary report on the investigation into the cause of a fatal plane crash on Mount Si earlier this month indicates there was no evidence of fire, oil leakage or engine trouble.
Shortly before Liz Redling took off on the plane ride that would turn out to be the last of her many adventures, she posted a couple of pictures on her Facebook page.
One showed a single-engine Cessna 172 and was captioned, “Guess what I’m doing tonight … ” Another showed Redling strapped into an airplane seat with headphones on, an excited smile on her face, according to her friends. The caption beneath it read: “Ready to go!!”
The much anticipated plane ride, which capped off a Valentine’s Day spent with two friends, ended in tragedy when the plane crashed into Mount Si near North Bend.
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Redling, 29, of Federal Way, was killed along with pilot Rob Hill, 30, and Seth Dawson, 31.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the cause of the crash, which occurred sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m. on Feb. 15. However, Wayne Pollack, senior investigator with the NTSB, said there was no evidence of a fire, oil leakage or engine trouble.
Hill, a flight instructor for AcuWings, based at Renton Municipal Airport, had taken the plane from the flight school. Baha Acunar, the co-owner and executive vice president of AcuWings, said Hill had a set of keys to the flight school’s office and took the plane without signing it out, apparently planning to “borrow” it for the evening.
Acunar said the company has since altered its policies and all instructors have been asked to turn over their keys.
Pollack wrote in his preliminary report posted on the NTSB’s website that a study of recorded radar showed there was only one flight from Renton to Mount Si that night that followed the characteristic pattern of a Cessna.
That radar indicated the plane climbed to 2,400 feet above sea level but descended to 1,500 feet as it approached Snoqualmie Falls.
The aircraft’s ground speed also decreased, Pollack wrote in his report.
Investigators said that the pilot had not been in contact with air traffic control and that little was known about the plane’s itinerary.
Pollack said the plane was flying under nighttime visual rules, in which flying without contacting air traffic control is permitted and not unusual.
As in all crashes, he said, the NTSB will be looking into the activities of the pilot before the crash.
“The protocol is to investigate the pilot’s background, experience and any activities that may have had a bearing on the accident,” Pollack said.
“Sometimes there are indications of alcohol, inadequate rest or fatigue. The safety board will attempt to ascertain whether there are any such factors and whether they had a bearing on the accident.”
The investigation is expected to take several months, he said.
Tabitha Becker, a friend of Redling’s, said the three had gone to see the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team play the Kelowna Rockets in Kent earlier that evening.
They apparently took the plane ride “just for fun,” Becker said.
Hill and Dawson were both popular in the South King County swimming community, where both coached on the Valley Aquatics Swim Team in Federal Way and at local high schools.
Hill coached at his alma mater, Decatur High School in Federal Way, where Redling also graduated.
Redling was the second youngest of four children, Becker said.
She worked in promotion and marketing, most recently at Mosaic Sales Solutions, but it wasn’t what she did for work that was important to her friends — it was who she was.
She was adventurous, free-spirited and charismatic, her friends said. She loved traveling, tattoos, karaoke, shoes and animals.
Friends who wrote on her Facebook page said she was a person who could make the best of any situation and someone who lived life to the fullest. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious, they said.
Sara Ryan wrote on Redling’s Facebook page that she had vowed to try everything at least once and “went head first into everything.”
Becker said, “She was the most vibrant person you could ever have had the honor to meet.”
The trails and trailheads on Mount Si and Little Si remain closed because removal of the plane’s wreckage has been hampered by snow, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.