A report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is providing new details into the Pembroke plane crash that killed prominent attorney Steve Barnes and his niece.
The preliminary NTSB report was released Wednesday. It doesn’t provide a cause, but does include a timeline, witness statements, and about 24 minutes of audio communications between Barnes and air traffic controllers.
Barnes, 61, was flying from New Hampshire to Buffalo on Oct. 2, 2020 when his plane plummeted out-of-control into a wooded and swampy area off Route 33 and Boyce Road. He and his niece, Elizabeth Barnes, were killed.
A summary of air traffic control communications initially shows routine transmissions involving Barnes’ aircraft — clearance for take-off, weather updates and similar matters.
Radio contact with Barnes — who was piloting the aircraft — was lost about an hour into the flight, according to the report. Controllers made numerous attempts to reach him and he finally acknowledged about 15 miles east of Buffalo.
The aircraft soon after began a 5,000 feet per minute descent into the Pembroke field and essentially disintegrated on impact, leaving a crater about 15 feet deep.
Four witnesses interviewed by the NTSB were included in the report.
One witness, Amy Metz, said the plane sounded “off,” followed by silence and then a loud, bomb-like boom that shook the whole house. Three others noted the engine noise, with two comparing it to a motorcycle — in one case, like a high-performance “crotch rocket.”
Barnes was flying a Socata TBM 750. It’s described as a high-performance, single engine turboprop often used as a business aircraft. The aircraft was manufactured in 2009 and had last been inspected Dec. 6, 2019.
Barnes was famous as part of the Cellino & Barnes law firm. His death made the national news and beyond — it was even reported by the British Broadcasting Company in the United Kingdom.
He and Ross Cellino Jr. operated the law firm for nearly three decades in Western New York, with offices in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City, Long Island, and California.
The firm specialized in personal injury lawsuits and used television commercials, musical jingles and billboards intensively to advertise.
The law firm was in the throes of a contentious break-up at the time of the crash, with two separate companies — Cellino Law and The Barnes Firm — ultimately emerging.