The helicopter ride that ultimately led to the death of country singer Troy Gentry last week was a “spur of the moment” trip, a federal investigator tells PEOPLE.
Gentry — one half of duo Montgomery Gentry — was confirmed dead at age 50 on Friday in a statement from the band, which said that full details of the New Jersey crash were unknown at the time. The star was scheduled to perform with bandmate Eddie Montgomery at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford on Friday evening, and the concert was canceled immediately.
Brian Rayner, senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, tells PEOPLE that Gentry’s helicopter ride in a Schweitzer 269 Charlie 1 aircraft is being preliminarily described as “impromptu, spur of the moment.”
Says Rayner, “[It was a] ‘Would you like to go for a helicopter ride?’”
“Not long after takeoff, the pilot announced over the airport frequency — which was being monitored by a number of people — that he was having difficulty controlling engine RPM,” says Rayner. “A couple of different responses to that challenge were discussed, and he was performing an auto rotational descent to runway one.”
Continues Rayner, “The helicopter landed short of the runway in low brush, it was substantially damaged and the occupants were fatally injured.”
Rayner says that a preliminary report explaining full details of the crash will be released to the public early next week. A full, factual report — which can take up to or longer than a year to compile — will then be completed and reviewed by a NTSB board. Finally, a final report will then be released, providing a statement of probable cause.
In a statement about the tragic accident, the Flying W said, “The day started with such excitement as the Montgomery Gentry bus rolled through our gates. The nicest people got off the bus and joined us on the ramp for what we hoped would be the best concert we have ever had. Sadly this was not to be.”
“Instead the day turned to tragedy as a helicopter accident took the lives of the pilot and Mr. Gentry. No words can describe the sadness that the Flying W employees feel for the families.”
Speaking to PEOPLE after Gentry’s death, music journalist and author Holly Gleason said of the star, “Nobody loved life more than Troy Gentry. Whatever adventure, all night party or hardcore hillbilly song, he was up for it.”