A 1985 single-engine Piper PA-46 Malibu appears to have suffered a serious mechanical failure mid-ir and crashed into a UPS freight terminal outside the Roanoke Regional Airport in Roanoke, Virginia (VA). This led to the death of the pilot, Peter Sheeran, and seriously injured the passenger, John Whitmer.

Whitmer is being treated at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He’s remains in critical condition, according to CNN.com. I hope he pulls through.

My deepest sympathies go out to Sheeran’s family. As someone who enjoys taking to the skies in small airplanes, I appreciate the risks all pilots take when they’re operating an aircraft. This tragic plane wreck goes to show that no matter who is operating the plane, a serious mechanical error can prove problematic. Sheeran had decades of experience; he was a pilot since the 1970s. But when a critical component on the plane fails, there’s very little a pilot can do.

When Sheeran radioed in to alert Roanoke tower, he said the “control wheels are locked.” He may have been referring to the cockpit steering mechanisms that control the plane’s elevation and side to side movements, according to Roanoke.com.

This fatal plane crash remains under investigation by authorities from the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and Virginia State Police, who are expected to look into “weather, the airplane’s maintenance history, log books, radar records and the plane’s mechanical components” as a means of finding out what might have caused the wreck, according to justicenewsflash.com.