Pembroke, N.Y. (WBEN) – The National Transportation Safety Board would normally already be on the ground and investigating the deadly plane crash that took the lives of prominent attorney Steve Barnes and his niece Elizabeth Barnes Friday.

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Due in part to COVID-19 risks, the NTSB will not be traveling to the scene of the crash and will not be updating the media on the crash investigation.

The NTSB’s Terry Williams tells WBEN the agency continues to conduct the same safety risk assessments they have historically used to make decisions related to travel to the scene of an accident, and are now adding additional factors for hazards related to the risks associated with COVID-19.

The single-engine Socata TBM-700 crashed at about 11:45 a.m. in a wooded area near Pembroke, New York, authorities said, as it neared the end of a flight from Manchester, New Hampshire.

Neighbors described the plane making a loud, whining noise, then dropping into a wooded area and exploding, Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron said. He said the plane had been destined for Buffalo.

“Work requiring travel of NTSB staff is being curtailed or canceled until it can be completed safely, or, conducted by another means,” said Williams in a statement via email.

Williams says investigators will gather information from a variety of sources and a preliminary report will be issued in the next few weeks. Investigations involving fatalities and other major investigations currently take between 12 – 24 months to complete.

The NTSB says historically, about 350 of the 1200-1300 aviation accidents and serious incidents investigated by the NTSB annually require an NTSB investigator to respond to the accident site to physically examine wreckage/evidence, but even more investigations require follow-up travel to conduct examinations and tests of recovered hardware and components. Since implementing social distancing and non-essential travel measures for the NTSB workforce, the need for an investigator to conduct travel associated with the examination of wreckage at the scene, or in other locations as part of follow-up investigative work, will be determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as the circumstances of the accident or incident, volume of information that could be gathered by other sources, and the risks associated with travel in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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