Aaliyah Wreckage Indicates Overloading

By | August 30, 2001 at 12:00 AM

The twin-engine plane that crashed in the Bahamas and killed rising R&B star Aaliyah together with eight other people may have been overloaded by as much as 700 pounds, Bahamian police sources said Wednesday.

Investigators derived that figure by weighing the victims’ bodies and the baggage recovered from the wreckage and calculating the weight of fuel aboard the twin-engine Cessna 402B that crashed Saturday in Marsh Harbour in the northern Bahamas, the police sources said.

Although the Bahamian and U.S. crash investigators have not released formal findings, police have said they are investigating whether overloading or engine failure played a role in the crash.

Witnesses said the pilot had trouble starting one engine before takeoff and baggage handlers argued with those boarding the propeller plane because they believed there was too much luggage.

Aaliyah Haughton, 22, pilot Luis Morales and seven members of the singer’s crew died when the plane carrying them back to the United States went down shortly after takeoff from the Bahamas, where they had been shooting a music video.

Authorities said Wednesday that Morales, 30, had pleaded no contest to cocaine possession and three other felonies 12 days before the accident.

Morales, 30, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, pleaded no contest in Broward County court Aug. 13 to charges of cocaine possession, dealing in stolen property, grand theft and driving with a suspended license, state prosecutors said.

SENTENCED TO PROBATION

He was sentenced to three years’ probation and was required to undergo urine testing for illegal drugs.

According to court records, a Broward County sheriff’s deputy saw Morales run a stop sign in Pompano Beach on July 7.

“The officer observed crack cocaine on the seat, arrested the gentleman on traffic violations, had the car inspected, and what was found was cocaine residue on a tube in a bag,” said Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy.

The stolen property and theft charges stemmed from an arrest last November when Morales allegedly tried to sell a stolen model airplane and a toolbox worth about $345 back to the store where they had been purchased.

The judge in the case withheld adjudication on the condition that Morales successfully complete his probation. Without a finding of guilt, he was able to continue flying.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Morales was authorized to fly Cessna 402B planes.

Aaliyah’s body and seven others have been flown back to the United States. Police in Nassau were awaiting dental records to make a positive identification of the last victim before releasing his body.

The singer, born Aaliyah Dana Haughton in Brooklyn, New York, saw her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number,” sell a million copies. She released her third album, “Aaliyah,” last month.

She made her acting debut last year with a starring role in the Jet Li film “Romeo Must Die” and was to have appeared in the upcoming sequel to “The Matrix.”

Recently, Aaliyah finished shooting “Queen of the Damned.” She played a vampire queen in the movie, which is based on an Anne Rice novel.

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