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Federal traffic safety board considering fresh look at Buddy Holly crash

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Buddy Holly crash site monument

Jeff Nicholas is pictured in a 2014 file photo looking at a monument he set up near the spot where the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper crashed north of Clear Lake killing all aboard.

CLEAR LAKE | The National Transportation Safety Board has agreed to consider reopening the investigation into the crash which killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson on Feb. 3, 1959.

On Sept. 23, 1959, the Civil Aeronautics Board ruled the probable cause of the crash was pilot error. Weather, specifically snow, was listed as a secondary cause of the crash.

The NTSB was established in 1967, taking over the investigation of airline crashes.

A New England man and experienced pilot, L.J. Coon, recently petitioned the NTSB asking it to take another look at the findings.

Coon contends there are issues involving weight and balance calculations, the rate of the aircraft's climb and descent, fuel gauge readings and whether a passenger-side rudder pedal was removed or not which the NTSB should investigate.

He received a letter from the NTSB's Office of the Managing Director dated Feb. 19, 2015, stating specialists are looking into information Coon provided. An initial response will take approximately two months. Then it can take from six months to a year to determine if the petition will be granted.

"You have gotten our attention. Let us do our due diligence in order to give you a proper answer," the letter stated.

In an email to the Globe Gazette, Coon said he believes the NTSB will review the pilot's actions in the aircraft during the flight and realize "the heroic effort that took place in those 4.9 miles."  

The plane was airborne for less than four minutes, traveling less than 5 miles north of the Mason City Municipal Airport before crashing into a Clear Lake farm field.

Holly, Valens and Richardson had performed the night before the crash at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake as part of the Winter Dance Party tour.

Click here to visit the Globe Gazette's Winter Dance Party archive.

The author of a book about Buddy Holly contends the Aeronautics Board got it right 56 years ago. Gary W. Moore, Bourbonnais, Illinois, said an inexperienced pilot, high performance aircraft and bad weather combined to cause the crash.

"I think that what they are going to find it is its pretty simple. The pilot was unqualified to fly in those conditions and he lost control of the airplane," Moore said.

He discounted conspiracy theories alleging a gunshot from a handgun owned by Holly brought down the plane.

Barb Dwyer, wife of Jerry Dwyer, who was the fixed base operator at the airport and owner of the plane, declined to comment on Coon's attempts to reopen the crash investigation.


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