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The final moments before Steve Barnes plane crash

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Posted at 8:25 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 21:08:49-04

CORFU, N.Y. (WKBW) — More than 90 minutes into flight, there was no panic in the voice of Steve Barnes piloting plane N965DM, a Socata TBM 700. The plane crashed Friday morning in the Village of Corfu, killing Attorney Steve Barnes and his niece, Elizabeth Barnes.

A YouTube video shows the final communication between aviation towers and Barnes. At one point during the flight, Boston center lost communication with Barnes. Air traffic control in Buffalo was able to regain contact.

The air traffic controller can be heard asking Barnes if everything is okay, to which Barnes responds, "Yes sir, everything's fine." That would be one of Steve Barnes last transmissions to the ground.

For more than a minute, air traffic control continues to attempt contact plane N965DM. The individual asks Barnes where he is going and to maintain altitude. There's 51 seconds of complete silence from Barnes before the air traffic control states "radio contact lost."

"The fact that he is not responding after a certain point is very unusual. That's not something a professional pilot under these conditions would do," John Nance, ABC News Aviation Analyst, said.

Barnes's lack of communication makes Nance question whether hypoxia played a factor in the crash.

"Had this occurred at 28,000 feet it would be an indication to me that the possibility of hypoxia is there. The fact that this occurred at 10,000 feet... the fact that they would have been hypoxic... you should be coming out of it by then," Nance said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said hypoxia was the cause of a 2014 Socata TBM 700 crash that killed a Rochester couple.

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The Federal Aviation Administration's preliminary accident report says the "aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances..."

"There's no clear indication of what's going on here," Nance said.

Nance also said there are indicators something was wrong with the aircraft's instruments. The FlightAware page displays a yellow line, which shows the plane's speed - indicates something was wrong with the aircraft's instruments. Usually, the line looks similar to a bell curve, where this looks like a heart beat.

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Dan Frisone agrees. He's the former Director of Flight Operations for a Fortune 500 Company.

"It's almost impossible for that type of airplane to jump up to 750 knots," Frisone said.

The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash. The NTSB will not travel to the scene, but the deputy director of regional operations said they are actively looking into the cause.

"They're going to look into aircraft history, private history, experience level, weather for sure, and then the aircraft type," Frisone said.