Fact Check

Did 5 Environmental Scientists Flying to East Palestine, Ohio, Die in Plane Crash?

The plane reportedly was departing from Little Rock, Arkansas, on Feb. 22, 2023.

Published Feb 23, 2023

 (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)
Image Via Michael Swensen/Getty Images
Five environmental scientists en route to a train derailment disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, in early 2023 were killed in a plane crash.

Five environmental scientists did die in a plane crash, but they were traveling to work at the site of an explosion at a metals factory in Ohio unrelated to the East Palestine derailment.

On Feb. 22, 2023, a plane carrying five people crashed shortly after taking off in Little Rock, Arkansas, as reported by KATV:

All five people onboard a small airplane departing from the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock died shortly after takeoff Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

The twin-engine plane, en route to the John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, crashed outside a 3M plant only a couple of miles from the Little Rock airport shortly after 12 p.m.

All five individuals were employees of the environmental consulting agency CTEH, according to KATV and WSYX. This detail struck a nerve with social media accounts pushing conspiratorial notions about the East Palestine, Ohio, trail derailment. That the plane took off from Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport did not help tamp conspiratorial interest in the story.

Stew Peters, a prolific East Palestine conspiracy promoter, implied on Twitter that employees were on their way to investigate East Palestine and that, because of this fact, foul play could be afoot:

The claim that the five victims of the crash were on their way to investigate East Palestine quickly spread across social media, with viral tweets repeating as fact that these workers were headed to East Palestine. This was false. 

As CTEH told reporters, the employees were traveling to the site of an Ohio metals plant that sustained an explosion on Feb. 20, 2023, killing one and injuring 13 others. 

Because the central premise behind this claim is incorrect, we rate it as "False."


"5 Dead after Small Plane Crashes in Little Rock, FAA Says." KATV, 22 Feb. 2023, https://katv.com/news/local/authorities-responding-to-plane-crash-in-little-rock-fire-department-lrfd-firefighters-officials-bill-hillary-clinton-national-airport-arkansas-ark-3m-manufacturing-corporate-office-plant-walters-road-critcal-condition-passengers-crew-developing-breaking.

"Explosion at Ohio Metals Plant Kills 1 Worker, Injures 13." AP NEWS, 21 Feb. 2023, https://apnews.com/article/industrial-accidents-cleveland-ohio-health-4c6cd6044977a2598285da796bb0aa2f.

"No Survivors after Plane Heading to Ohio for Plant Fire Crashes in Arkansas." WSYX, 22 Feb. 2023, https://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/plane-heading-to-columbus-crashes-bill-and-hillary-clinton-national-airport-arkansas-john-glenn-international-little-rock.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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