US officials join investigation of crash that killed singer Aaliyah, eight others
Monday, August 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) _ The investigation into the plane crash that killed 22-year-old singer Aaliyah and eight others widened as U.S. officials joined efforts to determine what caused the aircraft to go down shortly after takeoff.
Aaliyah and the others had come to the Bahamas to shoot a music video, authorities said. Their twin-engine Cessna was bound for Opa-locka, Fla. when it went down roughly 200 feet from the end of the runway at Marsh Harbour airport on Abaco Island, 100 miles north of Nassau on Saturday.
Bahamian investigators have searched through the wreckage for clues to the crash. Police Superintendent Basil Rahming said only that one of the Cessna's engines ``apparently failed.''
On Monday, two local newspapers, The Tribune and The Freeport News, quoted a baggage handler they did not name as saying he had warned the pilot that the plane was too heavy for a safe takeoff.
Lewis Key, a Bahamian pilot on Abaco, said he had heard rumors the plane was overloaded, but he did not believe extra weight could have caused the crash if both its engines were working.
Key, who said he has flown the same model of Cessna in the past, said that judging by the distribution of the wreckage, it appeared the plane veered off sharply, indicating a failed engine.
Authorities from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were to join the investigation on Monday, said NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz.
Aaliyah (pronounced Ah-LEE-yah), who had two Grammy nominations, a platinum album and several high-profile movie roles, was killed instantly. Five others on board also died in the crash, while three more died later of their injuries, Rahming said.
Born in New York City and raised in Detroit, Aaliyah had deep roots in the R&B community. She later returned to live in Manhattan. She is survived by her mother, father and brother.
``Aaliyah's family is devastated at the loss of their loving daughter and sister,'' said a statement from the singer's publicist, PMK. ``Their hearts go out to those families who also lost their loved ones.''
Police identified the other victims as bodyguard Scott Gallin, 41; Keith Wallace, 49, of Los Angeles; Douglas Kratz, 28, a representative for Virgin Records, makeup artist Eric Foreman, 29, Gina Smith, 29, all of Hollywood, Calif.; Anthony Dodd, 34, of Los Angeles; and Christopher Maldonado, 32, of New Jersey. The plane's pilot, identified only as L. Maradel, also died.
The bodies were taken to the morgue at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where they were to be kept for relatives to help identify them, U.S. Embassy spokesman Brian Bachman said. Some were badly burned in the crash, authorities said.
Virgin Records offered to pay for the relatives to come, Bachman said. The company also was considering bringing the bodies to Miami, to be met by family members there, he said, but no arrangements had been made as of late Sunday.
The Cessna 402 was owned by Skystream, a company based in Pembroke Pines, Fla., said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta. The company's telephone number was not listed, and company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Wichita, Kan.-based Cessna, Marilyn Richwine, said she was not aware of any safety problems with the twin-engine 402 model. The company hasn't manufactured that model for about 12 to 15 years, she said.
Aaliyah's song ``Try Again'' earned her a Grammy nomination this year for best female R&B vocalist. She was nominated in the same category in 1999 for ``Are You That Somebody.'' In 1996, she released her second album; the single, ``If Your Girl Only Knew,'' went double platinum.
Aaliyah made her first feature film appearance last year in the movie, ``Romeo Must Die.''
She was born Aaliyah Haughton on Jan. 16, 1979, in Brooklyn. She made her stage debut as an orphan in a production of ``Annie'' at the age of 6. Her uncle was married to soul singer Gladys Knight, who invited Aaliyah to perform with her during a five-night stint in Las Vegas at age 11.
Aaliyah struck a licensing deal as a teen-ager after her uncle, Barry Hankerson, formed Blackground Records.
Aaliyah went gold with her debut album, ``Age Ain't Nothing But Number,'' in 1994 _ when she was 15 _ and benefitted from working closely with hip-hop artist R. Kelly.