Saturday, October 10, 2020

Socata TBM700N (TBM850), N965DM: Fatal accident occurred October 02, 2020 in Pembroke, Genesee County, New YorK

 Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr.

Press release:

On October 2nd, a plane crash occurred in the Town of Pembroke that resulted in multiple agencies and departments working together for several days and nights to secure and process the site location.  

On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Genesee County, I would like to thank the following who responded and rendered their assistance:

Corfu Volunteer Fire Department
Darien Volunteer Fire Department
Department of Environmental Conservation
East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department
Elba Volunteer Fire Department
Federal Aviation Administration
Genesee County Coroner's
Genesee County Emergency Services Dispatchers
Genesee County Office of Emergency Management
New York State Police
Orleans County Coroner's
Village of Corfu Police Department
Wyoming County Forensic Anthropologist

We thank them for their professional service during this incident. Once again, we experienced the collaborative efforts amongst our law enforcement agencies, emergency service responders, government officials and community leaders.     

I would also like to sincerely thank the landowner of the crash site and neighbors for their patience while the days-long investigation was conducted and press conferences were held.  

~ Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr.
Attorney Elizabeth Barnes

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Rochester, New York

Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances. 


Date: 02-OCT-20
Time: 15:05:00Z
Regis#: N965DM
Aircraft Make: SOCATA
Aircraft Model: TBM700
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: FATAL
Total Fatal: 2
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

PEMBROKE, New York – A former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday he thinks the agency’s decision not to respond to the site of a fatal Genesee County plane crash could impact the independence of their investigation.

Attorney Steve Barnes and his niece Elizabeth Barnes died Friday when their plane crashed in the Town of Pembroke. The plane impacted the ground nose first, and was highly fragmented, according to the NTSB. While Genesee County sheriff’s deputies and FAA officials responded to the scene, the NTSB did not.

“I think there will be a good investigation. But I do hate to see a situation, because I think it does to some degree take away from the independence of the investigation,” said Jim Hall, who served as NTSB chairman from 1994-2001.

Hall said he could not recall an instance during his chairmanship in which the board did not personally respond to the scene of a fatal aviation incident. Of course, Hall didn’t serve at a time when a public health pandemic affected daily life. The NTSB cited COVID-19 as a reason for their decision not to travel to Pembroke.

Instead, they stayed in touch with FAA officials on scene. The wreckage of the aircraft has been removed, and taken to a facility in Tennessee. There, a team organized by the NTSB will conduct an examination, the board said.

“Our investigation of this crash does not rely solely upon our physical presence at the crash site, in fact, on-scene activities are but one portion of the many necessary to our investigative process,” Tim LeBaron, the Deputy Director for Regional Operations for the NTSB’s Office of Aviation Safety, said Monday.

The NTSB also pointed out in 2019, before the pandemic began, they sent investigators to just 221 of the 1,310 incidents they investigated that year. Figures were not available for 2020. But Hall said the board needs to be “aggressive” in high profile cases such as the Barnes crash.

“I would hope the board would do everything they could during this difficult period to safely have a response to an event like this by the board itself,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that COVID is having an impact on so many things in our life, but to the extent of an event like this, we need to try to be sure that we maintain our process and procedures as carefully as we can while at the same time protecting public safety,” Hall added.

Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron downplayed the NTSB’s absence over the weekend, saying the crews on scene were conducting the same functions the NTSB would have been doing anyway. However the board’s decision still drew criticism from a group which included Reps. Brian Higgins and Chris Jacobs.

On Monday, Higgins says he met with current NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.

“Unfortunately, in this case the swampy site and burrowing of the aircraft several feet under require a salvage team with expertise in sifting through submerged wreckage, rather than the traditional ground-based ‘go team’ of NTSB Investigators. Nevertheless, the chair assured us the NTSB is committed to a full and thorough investigation,” Higgins said in a statement.

Steve Barnes, who for years was a leader of the well-known Cellino & Barnes law firm, was set to officially launch his new firm, The Barnes Firm, on October 12th. His coworkers also took note of the NTSB’s absence.

“With the COVID-19 restrictions they have now, they have their justifications for it. But yes, we’re disappointed that they’re not there, but not angry,” said Robert Schreck, the managing attorney for The Barnes Firm who worked with Barnes for 17 years.

The NTSB is expected to release a preliminary investigation report over the next few weeks. The investigation could take up to two years to complete.

The crash of prominent New York City Lawyer Stephen Barnes bears some very unusual twists as the NTSB decides not even to travel to the scene to commence its investigation.

While the NTSB blames COVID-19 for its decision not to travel, it apparently ignored CDC guidelines about how masks and washing hands will protect us all from that influenza.

That leaves this investigation in the hands of the Plaintiffs’ lawyers, which is how most airplane accidents are resolved after investigation anyway.

The TBM is a pressurized single-engine turbine aircraft. It was flying along at 28,000 feet when communications with Boston Center were mysteriously lost. This makes no sense since once on the frequency there should have been no interruption. The procedure is to go back to the last frequency assigned if radio contact is lost or to guard 121.5, the emergency frequency if that doesn’t work.

The radar track shows the aircraft descending at a prodigious rate as the pilot was instructed to descend and maintain 8000 feet. In fact, just as it began its descent the airplane’s speed was 300 knots, 140 knots higher than its maneuvering speed (the speed at which full control inputs will stall the airplane before it breaks). The speed in the descent actually exceeded 440 knots, which in my experience means it broke up in the air.

The pilot asked for radar vectors to intercept the Instrument Landing System but was instructed to fly directly to the airport where he would overfly and be vectored to the ILS from the other side.

Instead, the aircraft flew in a more Northerly heading and not to the airport. When queried about it by Approach Control there was no response from the pilot.

The aircraft descended at a ground speed (radar shows only speed across the ground) of 440 knots more than 280 knots above the turbulence penetration speed of the TBM and descended below the assigned altitude until it crashed.

The following comes to mind:

1. Assuming the pilot was in good health was he impaired due to loss of pressurization as others have in the TBM?

2. At 28,000 feet, useful consciousness is between 2.5 to 3 minutes and perhaps the loss of pressurization put the pilot to “sleep” for a time.

3. Regaining usefulness is immediate as one descends and the pilot, had he been impaired by a pressurization loss, should have been able to fly as he got lower.

4. The increase in speed means either the airplane broke up on the way down or the engine was still in cruise power as the airplane descended.

5. The pilot had only flown this aircraft 8 hours in the prior three months.

6. It is unknown the recency of the pilot’s training or total flying experience.

7. A failure of the flight control system is possible such that the radios could have gone dark, the autopilot could have failed and other features to protect the pilot and the aircraft could likewise have failed, but when asked by Buffalo Approach, the pilot answered that everything was ok.

8. There is no cockpit voice recorder onboard this model but there are computer chips that may be readable that might disclose whether there were any of the failures that could cause loss of control.

9. A pressurization loss such that the pilot became impaired is a very strong consideration and a careful examination of that system is vital as a starting point in this investigation.

10. The aircraft appears to have broken up in or right before the descent.

11. The NTSB will dawdle and not release the wreckage for months and maybe years to keep Plaintiffs from finding out the cause until it issues its own report which will no doubt be written by parties it invites to the investigation, the manufacturer of the aircraft, and the engine.

12. They will be more concerned with their legal liability than serving aviation safety.

13. A review of maintenance records will thus be an important tool in preliminarily helping those who represent the victims in investigating the cause.

14. It is therefore vital that when the FAA or NTSB attempt to muscle the victims’ families and colleagues into giving up these records, that copies be made first and kept for counsel who represent the victims.

Only the most experienced air crash litigators should be engaged to work this case.

The Wolk Law Firm is the most experienced.

Arthur Alan Wolk


  1. I am a commercial rated TBM pilot with 1500 hours in both the 850 and 900. I haven't studied the altitudes and speeds, but please remember that KIAS and Ground Speed are two different things. Depending on altitude and winds and the plane could do 440 Knots over the ground and still not exceed Vmo. However at lower altitudes it could. The TBM is very strong structurally and likely did not 'break up' or it would have dropped out of the sky and not been controllable. This is a very sad situation (as they all are). Hopefully they will be able to get the answer we all want with a careful and thorough investigation.

    1. The TBM did not break up in the turn and fall in pieces. News reporting of Boyce road witness described the plane as coming across the tree line behind the witnesses house in a period of level flight crossing Boyce road a few hundred yards before impact.

      There is plenty of information about the ADS-B track, transcribed LiveAtc communications, etc available by simple searching on N number and names.

  2. It appears all the evidence at the site of simply a thousand pieces of junk will wield little, thus Arthur Alan Wolk will just have to seek damages with prior similar accidents, the remaining flight and voice data. His conclusion that: "The NTSB will dawdle and not release the wreckage for months and maybe years to keep Plaintiffs from finding out the cause until it issues its own report which will no doubt be written by parties it invites to the investigation, the manufacturer of the aircraft, and the engine. and 12. They will be more concerned with their legal liability than serving aviation safety." is beyond his control!

  3. There is a chance that the SD card that resides in the top slot of the G1000 Multi Function Display survived. Data is logged to the SD card during flight and has been informative in other investigations.

    Here is an example data file .xlsx (comma separated values) from the s/n 537 TBM (N536EM) docket:

  4. "The Wolk Law Firm is the most experienced."

    Give me a break.

  5. N965DM preliminary report has been released by NTSB: