BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The National Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the October 2, 2020 plane crash in Corfu that killed prominent attorney Steve Barnes and his niece Elizabeth Barnes.
In a preliminary report issued in October 2020, the NTSB said that the plane departed Buffalo Niagara International Airport at 7:47 a.m. and landed at Manchester Airport in New Hampshire at 9:14 a.m. It left that airport at 10:19 a.m. and remained at cruising altitude until 11:42 a.m. until it crashed at 11:45 a.m.
In the final report, they stated the probable cause of the crash was “the pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane for undetermined reasons during the descent to the destination airport.” The crash occurred about 17 miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
In a report issued on August 10, the NTSB said that there was a gap in communication between Steve Barnes and air traffic control for 25 minutes. The investigation was unable to determine the cause of why that occurred. When they were finally put in contact about 30 miles from the airport, the controller asked if everything was “okay” and Barnes responded, “yes sir, everything is fine.”
The report said that the plane began descent and the controlled asked where he was headed and received a “garbled” response.
The plane had no mechanical failures, with the report stating: “all major components of the airplane were located in the vicinity of the main wreckage. Examination of the airframe and engine revealed no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.”
The following findings were included in the report: “The pilot’s eventual contact with ATC about 30 miles from his intended destination, while still operating at his cruise altitude, suggests a clear breakdown in awareness of his position through distraction or impairment. However, upon re-establishing contact with ATC, the pilot’s communications were clear, nominal, and timely, which did not suggest impairment or use of an oxygen mask. Additionally, in response to a direct query from ATC the pilot did not indicate any difficulty.”
Barnes was prominent for being part of the Cellino & Barnes law firm and his death made national news. He and Ross Cellino Jr. based the firm for nearly three decades in Western New York with offices in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and California, specializing in personal injury lawsuits. They were in the midst of a break-up at the time of the crash.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.