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Inquiry looking at fuel as cause of plane crash

Investigators were looking Monday into whether fuel problems caused both engines to fail aboard a charter plane that crashed, killing all 19 people aboard. But the inquiry was hampered because the cockpit voice recorder was not working at the time.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigators searched for clues in the wreckage after Sunday's crash of the Executive Airlines twin-engine turboprop, which was carrying 17 passengers home from a gambling trip to Atlantic City, N.J.

The two pilots, who also were killed, had reported to air traffic controllers that they lost both engines as they made their second approach to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport in the rain.

Aviation analysts said dual engine failures are rare and can indicate a problem with the fuel supply.

NTSB member George Black said investigators were "looking at fuel and fuel systems," including whether the fuel was contaminated.

But Black said later that no evidence of contamination was found in a preliminary test of the fuel from a truck in Farmingdale, N.Y., that had refueled the plane. The tests were continuing and would include a ground sample from the crash site.

Investigators did not rule out the possibility that the plane was low on fuel.

Black also said the voice recorder had an improper power supply and did not record any sounds in the cockpit. Moreover, the plane did not have the other type of "black box" recorder, the one that keeps flight data such as speed and altitude, because it was not required for the model of airplane, a Jetstream 31.

"This seriously hampers the investigation," Black said.

He said investigators will rely on the wreckage, witnesses, radar data and conversations between the pilots and air traffic controllers.

The plane left Farmingdale on Sunday morning, picked up the passengers about 10:30 a.m. in Atlantic City and then headed to Wilkes-Barre on the one-hour, 150-mile flight.