Ellard family plane crash
An NTSB drone captured this image at the accident site in Addison, Texas. • Photo provided by the NTSB.

Members of Cutting Family Killed in Texas Plane Crash

An Addison, Texas, plane crash that reportedly killed four members of a prominent cutting horse breeder’s family is under investigation by federal authorities. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said 10 people were killed — two flight crew members and eight passengers — when an 11-seat Beechcraft King Air 350 crashed into a hangar shortly after takeoff and caught fire on Sunday morning at an airport in Addison.

Dallas County officials released a statement saying autopsies confirmed the identity of several casualties, including Brian Ellard, who is the stepson of cutting horse breeder Jo Ellard, and his stepchildren, Alice Maritato, 15, and Dylan Maritato, 13. Others reportedly killed in the crash were Stephen Thelan, 58, and Matthew Palmer, 27.

The names of the remaining five casualties have not yet been released by the Dallas County Institute of Forensic Sciences; however, several media outlets in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area also listed Ornella Ellard, Brian Ellard’s wife and Jo Ellard’s daughter-in-law, as among those killed.

Jo Ellard is the president and founder of EE Ranches of Texas Inc. in Whitesboro, Texas. A former National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) president, she is an inductee of the NCHA Members Hall of Fame and the owner of Equi-Stat Elite $6 Million Sire Cat Ichi.

The NTSB said the fixed wing, multi-engine aircraft owned by EE Operations LLC was en route to St. Petersburg, Florida.

NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said during a press conference Monday afternoon the investigation into Sunday’s crash will include a review of maintenance and inspection records of the 2-year-old aircraft.

Officials will also look into the pilots and/or crew members’ training and certifications, he said, as well as a review of the cockpit voice recorder. The cockpit voice recorder contains communications between the flight crew and staff in the airport control tower. It also contains audio from conversations and background noise in the cockpit of the plane. 

“What we know, at this point, is the communication seemed to be completely normal. In other words, the pilots were cleared for takeoff,”  Landsberg said during a press conference livestreamed by WFAA television. “They acknowledge takeoff, and at this point we are not aware of any further communication between the crew and air traffic control.”

Investigators will continue to analyze the cockpit voice recorder, which was taken to a lab in Washington, D.C., evaluate the scene and talk to witnesses as they seek to determine what caused the plane to crash.

damaged airport hangar
The Beechcraft King Air 350 crashed into a hangar on June 30 at Addison Airport. • Photo provided by the NTSB

Officials say the initial investigation, available video and witness accounts indicate the plane crashed quickly after takeoff with the landing gear still down.

“Information we have and the video that we saw was that the airplane was airborne,” Landsberg said. “So, the airplane had gotten airborne and then veered to the left of the runway, and then started to roll to the left. And it was in the process of rolling when it collided with the hangar.”

The investigation includes specialists and plane component experts from around the country and Canada, which is where the plane’s engine was manufactured.

Landsberg said a preliminary report about the crash could be released within two weeks. A more comprehensive report will take much longer.

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* This story was changed to correct that Brian Ellard was the stepson of Jo Ellard.