Federal investigators are focusing on the possibility that a blown tire could have contributed to the jet crash that seriously injured DJ AM (born Adam Goldstein) and Travis Barker and killed four others on Friday. According to CNN, investigators found evidence that one of the jet's tires may have blown moments before takeoff at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, South Carolina.
National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Debbie Hersman said investigators listening to the jet's cockpit voice recorder heard a sound "consistent with a tire blowout."
The pilot and co-pilot told air-traffic controllers that they heard a tire burst and tried to abort the takeoff, according to a conversation on the voice recorder recovered from the wreckage, The Associated Press reports. "The crew attempted to reject the takeoff but was unable to stop the aircraft before it departed the runway," Hersman said.
Goodyear, the maker of jet's tires, confirmed to TMZ.com that the company has received a call from the NTSB. "We have been contacted by the NTSB and will cooperate fully with its investigation," read a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this accident."
The Learjet 60 was trying to take off at 11:53 p.m. on Friday, a short time after AM and Barker had performed in front of 10,000 fans at a free outdoor show in Columbia's Five Points district. The plane skidded off the end of the 8,600-foot runway and crashed through light towers and an antenna array before crossing a five-lane highway and coming to rest in an embankment, where it burst into flames.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the twin-engine private jet was cleared for takeoff for the flight to Van Nuys, California, and no other aircraft were on the runway, no vehicles were in the road and the weather was clear with light winds, according to CNN.
A witness told local TV station WIS that after jumping from the plane, Barker, 32, and AM, 35, tried to help each other extinguish the flames, with AM ripping off his shirt and helping Barker take his burning clothing off.
Doctors announced at a press conference on Sunday that the drummer and DJ were in "critical but stable" condition and are expected to make full recoveries.
A longtime friend of the co-pilot who died in the crash, 52-year-old James Bland, told the AP that the experienced Bland flew anti-smuggling missions for 20 years for the U.S. Customs Service, as well as missions for the Santa Ana Police Department in California and U.S. Border Patrol. "He was such an experienced pilot, it had to be something beyond their control," Tim Ferrill said. "He was an absolutely meticulous pilot, very thorough and not a risk-taker at all."
E! Online reported on Saturday that the 2-year-old, 11-seat jet had flown without incident less than an hour before the crash, traveling from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Columbia and arriving at 11:08 p.m. "Something must have gone wrong on the ground," an unidentified FAA source told the site. "It appears the plane had no mechanical issues." The jet had recently made flights to California, Arizona, New Jersey and Kansas.
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