SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—Nearly a week after a Springfield family and a friend were killed in a fiery plane crash in a field near Willard, we got new information about what may have gone wrong. The National Transportation and Safety Board released its preliminary report.
John Lambert, his three children, and his friend Robin Melton were flying back to Springfield last Friday night after a Royals game. About five miles out from the Springfield-Branson National Airport, Lambert told air traffic control he needed a second approach. One of the area's most experienced pilots says that's a major red flag.
"I heard this boom, a sonic boom and it shook the house, and then I saw balls of red shoot above the tree line."
That's how a woman from Willard remembers the plane that barreled into her farm field last weekend.
Flying over it Friday, you'd never know what disaster occurred thousands of feet below. Jack Reynolds has passed that field, landed on that runway at Springfield-Branson National Airport -- the same runway John Lambert had intended to land on -- hundreds, probably thousands of times. But he's never missed an approach, not the way Lambert did.
"The turn he made, what made him decide to go back, I have no idea, but he never got closer than five miles to the airport. Sometimes you do the approach and go to the end of the runway and miss, but he decided to go back and start over before he ever got on the approach," Reynolds said.
Reynolds has been flying for more than 50 years, trained more than 500 other pilots, logged more than 26,000 hours at the controls, even flown the very plane Lambert crashed, yet he's puzzled by the NTSB preliminary crash report.
"There might have been an equipment malfunction. It would just be a guess as to what would have gone wrong."
Friday, he flew almost the same course that Lambert did. Instead of Kansas City, we took off from Warrensburg after picking up his granddaughter. Of course there are a few differences. Lambert was flying at night and there was some bad weather in the area.
"I have a three-strike rule and, if you get three strikes, you're out, just go land the airplane," Reynolds said. "One strike is always night, two strikes is always weather, and then the third strike can be anything -- you're tired, you don't feel good, problems at home."
Reynolds doesn't know if Lambert had a third strike, or maybe just bad luck. All he knows for certain is the end result was tragedy.
"I hope the Lambert family knows they are in our prayers," he saud,
The full NTSB report could take between six months and a year to be released. This initial report did not cite a cause of the crash.
One thing to note: Lambert was instrument rated, and Reynolds says, at night, pilots have to rely on their instruments, not their eyes, to land the plane.
Family and friends will celebrate the lives of John, Grayson, Mckinley, and Joshua Lambert at a ceremony on Saturday at 1 at Second Baptist Church in southeast Springfield. That's at the corner of Battlefield and Ingram Mill Road.