Local News

Wreckage Of Russian Jet Shipped To Investigators

Posted September 21, 2002 8:21 a.m. EDT

— Charred wreckage the Soviet MiG-15 fighter that crashed in Columbus County have been shipped to Georgia for analysis, investigators said Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration continued the investigation into Wednesday's crash, which killed the pilot, 61-year-old physician Tom Righetti of Miami.

The wreckage was removed Friday morning from a dense thicket of pine trees on International Paper property about four miles off N.C. 211, south of Bolton, said Capt. Roy Norris of the Columbus County Sheriff's Department.

Phil Powell, an NTSB air safety investigator, said wreckage was en route to Griffin, Ga., south of Atlanta, where investigators will sift through it to try to determine the cause of the crash.

"We're kind of looking at everything and hope we'll be able to get a better feel for what happened,'' Powell said.

Powell said this particular investigation may be difficult because the MiG-15 is a foreign-built aircraft.

Investigators said at the scene that the plane crashed after encountering bad weather. On his way to perform in the 2002 Neptune Festival Air Show in Virginia Beach, Va., Righetti had taken off from Myrtle Beach after a brief stop Wednesday.

His last contact with air traffic controllers was around 1 or 2 p.m. when he said he was in a storm and was returning to Myrtle Beach.

A military airplane enthusiast and a licensed pilot for 20 years, Righetti was also the chairman and president of the Wings Over Miami Museum. He has flown jets like the Soviet-built MiG-15 for about eight years, the museum's Internet site said.