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NTSB sheds new light on crash between plane and paraglider in Fulshear that killed two

The paraglider and the plane's pilot were killed when they collided, sending debris across at least three locations spread four miles apart.

FULSHEAR, Texas — We have new information about a deadly collision between a plane and a paraglider in Fulshear back in December.

A new NTSB reports say the paraglider wasn’t equipped with technology that would have it show up on an air traffic controller’s display, meaning the two were in the same airspace without knowing it.

RELATED: Investigators work to find out how plane collided with paraglider over Fort Bend County

The report also says one of the wings was ripped off the plane on impact.

“It was catastrophic,” aviation expert Josh Verde said. “It would not have been the type of crash where the pilot could’ve guided the plane down to a safe emergency landing, it was too severe in flight.”

The plane, which was contracted by UPS, had left George Bush Intercontinental Airport and was heading to Victoria.

The county medical examiner says the paraglider was 51-year-old Kenneth Tuttle. The pilot was identified as Robert Steven Gruss. Both died from blunt force trauma.

RELATED: 'It came down real hard': 2 killed when plane collides with paraglider in Fort Bend County, sheriff's office says

The crash scene was spread across at least three locations that are approximately four miles apart.

Verde studied the NTSB’s preliminary crash report on Friday.

According to the report, the paraglider did not have a transponder and was not detected by air traffic control radar.

“As long as the paraglider is operating from outside the 30 nautical mile ring from a major airport, there’s no requirement for it to have a transponder,” Verde said.

Verde said some radars allow for the sensitivity to be adjusted to detect smaller objects in the air – however, the screen quickly becomes cluttered.

He said the normal air traffic control setting would likely only pick up larger, metallic objects in the air, the size of a small car.

“It’s very, very unlikely if not impossible for the radar systems to see it and depict it on the screen as a possible collision hazard,” Verde said.

Verde advises pilots to continually look outside windows, although he said it’s difficult at times.

“The reality is, there are times when you have to direct your attention into the cockpit,” Verde said.

Verde said it appears that neither the pilot nor the paraglider was at fault.

“It may end up being that this crash was an unavoidable accident and there’s really nothing we can do to prevent this from happening again,” Verde said. “Other than telling people what happened and maybe advising them to keep a lookout.”


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