Attorney Steve Barnes was flying along at 28,000 feet and was 15 miles from his destination on Oct. 2 when he asked for a runway approach at Buffalo International Airport.
An air traffic controller told Barnes to descend to 8,000 feet and then he asked Barnes “if everything was OK,” a preliminary report by National Transportation Safety Board stated.
“Yes, sir,” Barnes replied. “Everything’s fine.”
Those were Barnes’ last words to the controller, who moments later saw on radar that Barnes’ Socata TBM 700 was descending rapidly.
The controller told Barnes to stop his descent at 10,000 feet.
“The pilot did not respond,” the report said.
The controller made several more attempts to contact Barnes and “no further communications received from the pilot.”
During the next three minutes the plane dropped at a speed of more than 340 knots, nearly 400 mph or 13,800 feet per minute.
“The airplane made one right 360-degree turn before radar contact was lost,” the report said.
The plane crashed at 11:46 a.m. in a swampy, wooded area off Route 33 and Boyce Road in Pembroke.
Barnes, 61, and his niece, Elizabeth Barnes, 32, were killed.
The NTSB report says that wreckage from the plane was found 15 feet below the ground surface.
The report did not reveal what may have caused the fatal crash, something that may never be revealed.
Barnes left the Buffalo airport at 7:47 a.m. that day to pick up his niece in Manchester, N.H. The two were planning on attending Elizabeth Barnes’ grandmother’s 90th birthday party.
The plane was topped off with 173 gallons of fuel before departing Buffalo. Barnes landed at Manchester Airport at 9:14 a.m., where his niece boarded and Barnes took off “without obtaining any services there.”
He departed the airport at 10:19 a.m. and had no contact with air traffic controllers until he reached Genesee County.
Barnes was a partner with Cellino and Barnes Law Firm, one of the most well-known law firms in New York.
Barnes and partner Ross Cellino agreed earlier this year to split the partnership.
The new firms were officially opened this week: Cellino Law and Barnes Firm, which will be operated by his brother, Richard Barnes.