Kartik (22) and Pratik (19) Kalaichelvan, two brothers from Bangalore, were killed on Tuesday night when their single-engine plane nose dived into a hayfield in Hood County, Texas.
Local news media reported that the brothers along with their friend Casey Brinegar (26), to whom the aircraft was registered, were on a “a fun trip to Stephenville for a barbeque — a Texas treat for a college student from India visiting his brother in Arlington.”
The three youngsters were said to have been returning to Arlington airport when, at about 9:30 p.m., an eyewitness heard the engine spluttering and cutting out near the town of Tolar. Reports quoted Kyle Fortenberry saying, “I [saw] him circle overhead,… heard his engine stalling, watched him circle back around and nose-dive into the pasture.”
The right wing of the 1964 Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft smashed into the ground, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said, and the aircraft tumbled. Dub Gillum of the Texas Department of Public Safety said, “The young pilot was looking for a place to land, I assume… He did a fabulous job not crashing into a house.” Mr. Gillum added that he believed the pilot might have landed it if he had had just a bit more daylight.
Mr. Brinegar and Kartik Kalaichelvan were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, according to Mr. Gillum, while Pratik Kalaichelvan was taken by helicopter to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Friends of the victims said the younger Mr. Kalaichelvan was days away from returning to India. They added that Mr. Brinegar was a superb pilot and instructor at the Skymates flight school in Arlington, although Tuesday’s flight was strictly for pleasure in Mr. Brinegar’s personal plane.
Those who knew Kartik Kalaichelvan said he had learned to fly from Mr. Brinegar, and was “accumulating flight time before returning to India to be a commercial pilot like his dad”. The Indian victims’ father, Alangiam P. Kalaichelvan, reportedly works as a pilot for King Fisher Airlines in Bangalore.
Texas media reported that investigators had not yet determined who was piloting the plane, although as per the norm, flight instructors are always in command of an aircraft when a student is aboard.
Local media also reported that authorities were trying to determine what caused the crash 45 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Texas. An NTSB investigator said a preliminary report on the crash will be issued next week. The NTSB, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, will be investigating the cause of the crash.
Reports noted that Pratik Kalaichelvan, a dentistry student in Chennai, came to visit his brother who, along with Mr. Brinegar, was showing Pratik Texas from the sky. Parents of Kartik and Pratik were said to be en route to Dallas and are expected to reach on Friday morning. A team of volunteers was said to be making arrangements to get all the necessary documents and transfer the bodies to a local funeral home.
“We express our deepest condolences to the Kalaichelvan family on the loss of two young men,” said Prasad Thotakura, General Secretary of the Indian American Friendship Council.