Evidence that a part of a Cessna 337 that fell off the plane before it crashed Monday at Monmouth Executive Airport suggest the possibility of a bird strike -- as the names of those killed were released.
Five people, including a father, his son and nephew, died in the crash. They have been identified as Andrzej Zajaczkowski, 38, his son Patryk Zajaczkowski, 14, and nephew Filip Zajaczkowski, 6, as well as pilot Wojciech Nykaza, 46, of Lodi, NJ, and owner of the plane Jacek Mazurek, 45, of Kearny, NJ.
Mazurek was a friend of the Zajackowski family.
Meanwhile, one experienced pilot familiar with the area believes that birds may be to blame for the crash.
"I fly in and out of this airport quite frequently -- birds are an issue," said pilot Peter DeLisa.
DeLisa said a picture of the part lying on the runway appears to come from a wingtip of the doomed plane, and the NTSB admits witnesses saw something come off.
"Something flew off, separated the aircraft as it was flying over," said NTSB investigator Jose Obregon.
"Airplanes are made to fly with all their parts," said DeLisa, explaining that with the wing tip gone, "It changes the whole aerodynamic structure of the aircraft as well as the weight and the balance and the aircraft becomes uncontrollable."
DeLisa said he talked to several people at the airport when the crash occurred, and they told him the pilot had gone up for a picture-taking opportunity with another family member in a small helicopter nearby taking the pictures.
The NTSB would not confirm that, but Obregon did say the plane had taken off from the airport located in Wall, NJ and had made one pass around the property when the tragedy occurred.
DeLisa said if the plane had been flying slower, several of those on board, or all, may have survived.
But there was a huge debris field several hundred feet away from the part that landed on the runway.
DeLisa said that told him "He was at the top end of his speed range and that's what caused a large scattering of debris and made it so difficult for officials to recover the remains."
DeLisa added that something other than a bird strike may have happened to cause the wing tip to fall off. NTSB investigators take great pains not to leap to conclusions until they've had a chance to study all the evidence, and Obregon admitted their probe could last anywhere from six months to a year and a half.