Police investigate suicide in Spotsylvania plane crash

Posted at 11:09 AM, Jul 23, 2013

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- Virginia State Police are investigating pilot suicide as a factor in a deadly plane crash Monday night in Spotsylvania County. Police were called to the Shannon Airport just after 6:30 p.m. after a single-engine Cessna 172M airplane flying near the airport made a rapid descent and crashed.

“He was about 2000 feet up and took a nose dive straight into the ground,” said an eyewitness and flight student named “Charlie” who didn’t want to reveal his last name. “I’m just in shock, man.” [READ MORE: Pilot dies in fiery Spotsylvania plane crash]

The pilot, 22-year-old Edwin G. Hassel of Fredericksburg, was killed. Police said Hassel crashed the plane minutes after he rented it from a flight school at the airport.

"It's too early to talk about a probable cause," NTSB investigator Dennis Diaz  said Tuesday. "We're not here to speculate why things happened. We're just trying to understand what happened."

Diaz said his investigators were made aware that  police were called to the airport prior to the crash about a potentially suicidal person.

"There information, in addition to witnesses, that we can get from 911 calls that may have been made that prompted the response to the airport. We'll certainly get that information," Diaz said.

Diaz said the investigation could take six to nine months.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for updates on this story.