National Transportation Safety Board releases first report on fatal plane crash

BLOOMINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board has released its initial report on a November 2023 fatal plane crash that killed two people, including the pilot Warren Bruhl and Bloomington business owner Nathan Finney.

The FlightAware website tracked the Cirrus SR 22T airplane that took off from the Monroe County Airport in Bloomington at 4:05 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22. Officials lost radar contact near Shelbyville at 4:46 p.m. That plane was registered to the Maxwell Group in Charlotte, N.C., according to FlightAware.

According to a female witness who was traveling on Interstate 74 noticed the Cirrus SR22T plane flying over a field. The woman said the plane was “very low and looked stalled or as if it was hovering or hanging”. She estimated the plane’s altitude roughly at 200 feet. The woman told investigators the plane made a sharp left turn and then “lost all control”. She added plane’s wings were vertical and then leveled out “extremely close to the ground”.

She then lost sight of the plane behind some trees. But then saw a fireball and thick black smoke.

A National Transportation Safety Board post-investigation found the wings were fully retracted and the aileron trim was neutral. The report does not mention any mechanical failures, but does say “examination of the flight control system confirmed continuity.” The report notes the plane was destroyed by the crash and fire.

The preliminary report does not list the cause of the crash.

Investigators collected evidence from the wreckage for further examination. The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent federal agency, is leading the investigation into the crash.  Officials said a recording device was recovered, and an investigator collected witness statements, flight track data, and recordings from the air traffic control and surrounding surveillance video.

The investigation including the cause of a crash, generally takes 12-18 months to complete.

The accident happened on Wednesday, November 22, at 4:50 p.m. Several Indiana State Troopers, along with Shelby County deputies and other first responders were called to the area of 6300 North County Road 325 West near Shelbyville, after reports of a plane crash.

When emergency responders arrived they could see smoke coming from the middle of a cornfield. As they got closer they could see what appeared to be a severely damaged small aircraft with heavy smoke.

After the fire was extinguished, the remains of one adult man were visible in the wreckage and the remains of a second adult male were located soon after. 

Gambit Aviation, where Warren Bruhl was employed to teach students how to fly, confirmed in a Facebook post he had been killed in the crash. Bruhl was a chiropractor and a commercial pilot who taught East African youth the basics of flying so they could pursue aviation careers.

Nathan Finney and flight instructor Warren Bruhl were the only people on board the Cirrus SR 22T when it crashed in a cornfield on November 22 near Shelbyville Municipal Airport about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis. 

The second man who perished in the crash was Nathan Finney, of Bloomington. Finney was president and founder of Finney Hospitality Group, which owns The Tap, Tap Brewery, Yogi’s SmokeWorks, and Social Cantina in downtown Bloomington. Social Cantina also has locations in Indianapolis, Carmel, West Lafayette, and Mishawaka. He leaves behind his wife and two young children.