OMAHA, Neb. (Jan 23, 1997 - 10:06 EST) -- A cockpit fuel lever pushed only three quarters of an inch closer to the "on" position might have saved the life of former Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer and his passenger, federal aviation officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that pilot error and strong wind led to the April 18 plane crash that killed Berringer and Tobey Lake, brother of the player's girlfriend.
Berringer, who helped the Cornhuskers win national titles in 1994 and 1995, was flying the 1946 Piper J-3 Cub that crashed shortly after taking off from a grass runway near Raymond, Neb.
Berringer apparently failed to make sure the engine was getting enough fuel at takeoff, according to the NTSB report issued this week.
The plane's fuel valve was in the "off" position, while the cockpit fuel selector was placed less than an inch from the position needed to open the valve, the report said.
The aircraft's owner, Harry Barr, said the fuel lever was always left in the "on" position.
"The pilot's failure resulted in a loss of engine power due to fuel starvation during the initial climb after takeoff," the report said.
Safety officials said the plane's propeller showed no evidence of engine power at the time of impact. A study of the plane's engine found no internal problems.
Gusty wind at the time of the accident also played a factor in bringing down the 50-year-old plane, investigators said. Gusts to 28 mph were reported in the area at the time of the crash.
Berringer, 22, of Goodland, Kan., and Lake, 32, of Aurora, Colo., were pronounced dead at the scene.