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Rep. Waxman Urges NTSB to Expand Investigation of Santa Monica Airport Crash

Waxman also expressed concerns about the effect the Federal government shutdown would have on the investigation.

A photo of the crash taken from a Mar Vista backyard. Credit: Valerie Vanderwest
A photo of the crash taken from a Mar Vista backyard. Credit: Valerie Vanderwest

On Oct. 1, Rep. Henry Waxman sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta, calling on him to address safety concerns at Santa Monica Airport.

On Oct 2., Waxman spoke with National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Acting Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman and asked that the NTSB expand the scope of its investigation beyond the immediate cause of the crash to examine the overall safety of the airport layout. 

He also raised concerns about whether the government shutdown would significantly delay the agency's investigation.

According to a release from Waxman’s office, NTSB Chairman Hersman said that the “furloughs had made the NTSB investigation extraordinarily difficult” but she would look to see what options were available to her to ensure that the investigation continues with minimal delay.  She also indicated that she would take Rep. Waxman's request to expand the scope of the investigation under advisement.

 

Rep. Waxman also sent a letter to Acting Chairman Hersman outlining his concerns and asking her continue to work with him as the Santa Monica Airport investigation continues. The text of that letter is similar to the one sent to the NTSB and is as follows:

 

October 2, 2013

                                                                     

The Honorable Deborah A. P. Hersman

Acting Chairman

National Transportation Safety Board

490 L’Enfant Plaza S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20594

 

Dear Chairman Hersman:

 

I am writing on behalf of my constituents who reside near the Santa Monica Airport.  On Sunday, September 29, 2013, a twin-engine Cessna Citation landing from Hailey, Idaho, veered off the right side of the runway and crashed into a storage hangar.  Although we do not yet know all of the facts, reports indicate that there were four casualties, including a father and son who owned a successful construction business in Santa Monica.

According to Chairman David Goddard of the Santa Monica Airport Commission, the crash occurred about 150 feet from the homes that surround the airport.  He believes that if the plane had not hit the hangar, it could have gone over an embankment and crashed into houses.  Residences surround approximately 75% of the airport.

I have two concerns about the NTSB investigation.  My immediate concern is that the agency’s investigation could be significantly impacted and delayed by the Republican-led government shutdown.  Under the shutdown, NTSB investigators are placed on furlough.  One press report indicated that NTSB investigators left the scene on Tuesday morning. My understanding is that perishable physical evidence of the crash was collected by agency investigators.  However, evidence deemed nonperishable will not be collected or analyzed until government funding issues are resolved. 

I recognize that there are limits on what you can do under the constraints of the government shutdown.  But I urge you to expand your definition of what is deemed “perishable” evidence to include all relevant witness interviews.  I have led many congressional investigations and know that recollections fade and change with time.  Quick action now would help ensure the accuracy and thoroughness of the investigation later. 

I also request that you expand the scope of the investigation beyond the immediate cause of this tragic crash.  There has been extensive community concern about the safety of the airport layout, the safety of the existing runway length for propeller planes and different classes of jet aircraft, the impact of the lack of runway safety areas, and the mitigating effects of an engineered material arresting system if one had existed.  The issue of the overall safety of the Santa Monica Airport should also be examined by the NTSB.

Thank you for speaking with me about these issues today.  I look forward to working closely with the NTSB as this investigation continues.

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman

 

 

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