New details in deadly midair crop-duster plane crash in Cochran County

Note: The above video is from the evening of June 14, 2024.

LUBBOCK (KLBK/KAMC) — A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board obtained on Monday revealed what happened before a deadly midair crash between two crop-duster airplanes that were spraying a cotton field between Whiteface and Morton.

PREVIOUS STORY: Pilots identified after crop-duster airplanes crash mid-air near Morton
(Photo Courtesy of the Cochran County Sheriff's Office) previously reported first responders were called to the crash around 8:40 a.m. on June 14.

The pilots were spraying a cotton field using crop-duster airplanes when they crashed in midair, according to the Cochran County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety said one pilot, Philip Joseph Kitten, 68, was pronounced dead. The pilot of the other plane, Jeremy Deshawn Williams, was injured at taken to the hospital.

How did the crash happen?

The NTSB preliminary report stated Williams told investigators he intended to spray the corners of the field, while Kitten would spray the "center circle." He said they coordinated the plan for Williams to be the “high man” and Kitten to be the "low man." according to the report.

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The report said Williams had told investigators he was spraying the field from west to east, and Kitten was going north to south. According to the report, Williams noticed Kitten's airplane start to climb up into his path. The report stated Williams told investigators he "yanked and banked to the right" to avoid a crash.

On-ground fire in one airplane

Investigators found debris from both airplanes covering the cotton field, and scattered across a 700 feet by 400 feet area. The report also documented black transfer marks on the right composite wing from tip pieces from Williams's airplane. The report said parts of Kitten's right wing were found in the main wreckage of Williams's airplane.

From NTSB Preliminary Report: "Figure 1. Wreckage diagram with approximate collision point noted with a yellow star. Blue shaded areas indicate N2032K intended area of spray operations, green shaded area indicates N8525V intended area of spray operations."

Wreckage from Kitten's plane was found inverted in a field south of the one being sprayed. The engine of Kitten's plane had "torsional twisting." The wreckage from Williams's plane was found on its right side in the same field as Kitten's.

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The NTSB report stated Williams's engine also had "significant torsional twisting and was bent in a U shape." Both planes had substantial damage. The report said Kitten's airplane caught fire once on the ground, but there was no fire in Williams's plane.

From NTSB Preliminary Report: Figure 2. N8525V wreckage looking east.From NTSB Preliminary Report: 3. N2032K wreckage looking southwest.

The preliminary report said both airplanes were removed from the scene and taken to a secure location for further examination.

This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma's Homepage for updates as more information becomes available.

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