HATCH, New Mexico — A Waxahachie man is one of the four dead after a single-engine airplane crash on Saturday night near Hatch, New Mexico.
"The aircraft was reported missing on Saturday night after the owner became concerned that it had not yet returned to El Paso,” said Lynn Lunsford, Mid-States Public Affairs Manager with the Federal Aviation Administration. “Search crews located the aircraft late Sunday.”
Lunsford added that the aircraft involved in the accident was a single-engine Cessna 172.
According to reports from the Associated Press, the victims include 57-year-old Anthony Deramus, 33-year-old Christopher Howell, 41-year-old Kanequa Chancellor and 25-year-old Malcolm Watkins. Watkins is a 2011 graduate of Maypearl High School, while the others were from El Paso.
Authorities told the AP on Monday that the cause of Sunday's crash of the single-engine plane is not known. The aircraft was found approximately 300 yards (275 meters) from the airport in Hatch.
Lynn Lunsford stated that the National Transportation Safety Board is in charge of the investigation at this time.
Peter Knudson, an NTSB Spokesperson, stated that preliminary investigation is underway at this time.
“The plane was based in El Paso and flew to Hatch, New Mexico and then it departed Hatch and crashed about four miles from the airport on Bureau of Land Management Property. The debris field was described as about 25 feet long,” Knudson said. “The investigator has been on the scene since yesterday and is finishing up the on-scene documentation of the wreckage site today. The aircraft is expected to be removed from the site today by the recovery company that specializes in that type of work.”
Knudson stated that they do not know of any communications from the pilot. No flight plan was filed and they were flying under visual flight rules and are not aware of any air traffic control communications There was no post-crash fire.
A preliminary report will be released in a couple of weeks that will detail the facts and the circumstances of the accident. This report will be through the agency’s website at www.ntsb.gov.
Knudson added that the investigation would look to see if the pilots had any health conditions, check the pilot’s history 72 hours before the flight, and do a toxicology screening. The investigation will also look at the aircraft and the operating environment. The study is expected to last 12-24 months.
According to the FAA’s registry website, the Cessna 172N was manufactured in 1978 and was registered to Caribbean Paradise LLC located in Port Saint Lucia, Florida.
People have expressed their heartfelt condolences for the loss of Deramus, Howell, Chancellor, and Watkins on social media.
“I wake (sic) up this morning and found out that my young close friend Malcolm Watkins has passed,” Spencer Davis posted on Facebook. “I'm truly hurt and you will be missed fam.”
In a video posted to Facebook Bishop Richard Johnson and Pastor Adele Johnson with the Destiny Family Christian Center of El Paso shared their feelings about this tragic loss.
“To the Destiny family, we are devastated and heartbroken for the loss of our beloved pastor Kanequa Chancellor, Minister Chris Howell, Deacon Anthony Deramus and Malcolm Watkins. They were pillars in our church and they were exceptional human beings,” Richard said. “We are praying for every family member and friend and every person blessed by the ministry of those person’s named. We are hurting together and we understand that, but through faith, I believe that we are going to heal together.”
The Maypearl High School Class of 2011 will hold a candlelight vigil to remember to Watkins' life at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Maypearl football stadium. Watkins was a 2011 graduate of Maypearl High School. The stadium is located at 600 Phillips St. in Maypearl. If weather conditions worsen, the vigil will be held in the school's gym.
*The Associated Press contributed to this report.