So says a preliminary report released over the weekend by Bahamian investigators (by way of the National Transportation Safety Board), who say the maximum weight allowed on the Cessna twin-engine plane was "substantially exceeded."
"The total weight of the luggage, fuel on board at the time of the accident, plus the weight of the passengers showed that the total gross weight of the airplane was substantially exceeded," the report reads.
The 22-year-old singer-actress was killed instantly August 25 when her plane crashed in the Bahamas, where she had been shooting a music video. Witnesses said the plane lifted off from Marsh Harbour Airport and then tipped, nose down, into a marsh on the south side of the runway.
Early on, the investigation had focused on whether the plane might have been too overloaded at the time of takeoff. The twin-engine Cessna model 402B was designed to carry only six to eight people, including the pilot, but there were nine people from Aaliyah's entourage on board when the aircraft went down seconds after takeoff.
The Cessna model is authorized to carry 6,300 pounds. But with luggage and fuel, investigators initially estimated the doomed plane's weight at 5,495 pounds--leaving just over 800 pounds for the nine passengers. (Aaliyah's bodyguard alone reportedly tipped the scales at 300 pounds.)
Meanwhile, a few other details remain unresolved. While investigators found no mechanical problems with the engines or airframe, they say the plane's operator, Miami-based Blackhawk International Airways, still hasn't handed over aircraft or engine logbooks.
Officials are reportedly deciding whether to ask U.S. officials to subpoena Blackhawk owner Gilbert Chacon to get their hands on the records. But until then, "The complete maintenance history of the airplane is unknown," the report reads.
The plane's pilot, Luis Morales, also wasn't authorized to fly the Cessna. Just 12 days before the crash, Morales was in a Florida courtroom pleading no contest to possessing crack cocaine, trafficking stolen airplane parts, theft and driving with a suspended license.
NTSB officials say the preliminary report is based on information provided by Bahamian officials, who remain in charge of the investigation.
"It's up to [Bahamian investigators] on what they want us to do next," says Ted Lopatkiewicz, deputy director of public affairs for the NTSB. "We've offered our assistance and have been doing so, and whatever they want to have us do, we'll do."