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Speculation on EA-6B crash cause premature, former AF investigator says

SPOKANE, Wash. - A former Air Force crash investigator said Monday that the worst thing that can happen at this point is to speculate on the cause of the deadly EA-6B Prowler crash in Lincoln County.

A Whidbey Island-based EA-6B Prowler crashed into a remote area in Lincoln County, resulting in the loss of three aviators. The Prowler was assigned to VAQ-129, the US Navy's fleet replacement training squadron which specializes in training naval aviators on how to fly the Navy's Prowler and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.

Images from the crash scene show a large crater and the Prowler's wreckage scattered in pieces across a field. Finding a cause for the crash will take time.

Prowler crash investigation

In Monday's crash, the aircrew was conducting a low-level training mission, a dangerous feat when you're going several hundred knots a few hundred feet off the deck, but that wasn't necessarily a contributing factor in the crash.

"It could be something that happened very quickly and there's also the possibility of migratory birds that could have hit and taken somebody out," Art Meikel said.

While serving in the Air Force, Meikel spent four years investigating military plane crashes like Monday's Prowler crash.

"Each base has a temporary board that goes out to secure the scene and gets the records the medical records, the aircraft records," he said.

The investigators at the scene Monday were likely beginning to photograph everything and starting to analyze the depth and scale of the crater left by the crash. That will tell them how the plane crashed and perhaps shed light on what went wrong.

"They will see how current and qualified the people were and they will look at the aircraft and see if it had any problems on previous missions or if there's been any recent maintenance, that type of thing," Meikel said.