The flight crew of a chartered DC-3 that crashed New Year's Eve, killing singer Rick Nelson and six others, encountered repeated problems with a cabin heater shortly before fire erupted aboard the plane, according to documents released today by federal investigators.
At one point, the documents showed, co-pilot Kenneth Ferguson told investigators he became "nervous" about the heater problems and refused a request by the pilot to turn it back on.
But the heater was turned back on, and several minutes later one of the passengers aboard the aircraft, which was flying Nelson, his fiancee and his band to an appearance in Dallas, complained of heavy smoke in the cabin.
Probe's Primary Focus
The documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board made no direct conclusion about what caused the fire aboard the DC-3, but sources close to the investigation say the heater remains a primary focus of the probe.
Shortly after the accident, there was speculation that the fire in the cabin might have been started by passengers free-basing cocaine. Medical reports released previously showed that Nelson and two members of the band had traces of cocaine in their systems.
The documents released today made no reference to drug use.